Baton Rouge – The Department of Health has published a Family Readiness Guide to assist citizens with making proper decisions in the event of a natural or man-made emergency or a bioterrorism threat. The guide is being first distributed in the New Orleans metropolitan area as an insert in Saturday’s Times-Picayune. About 200,000 copies will be distributed Saturday, and additional printings will result in a total of 3 million guides that will be distributed as newspaper inserts throughout the remainder of the state in early 2004.

David W. Hood, LDH Secretary, said the guide is part of the agency’s efforts to fully inform citizens about steps to take during an emergency.

"Although we have no information about any possible direct threats to Louisiana, our nation remains under an orange, high-risk threat level. Therefore, it is vital that we provide as much information as possible to our fellow citizens," Hood explained. "With warnings from the national Department of Homeland Security that suggest the need to step up preparedness efforts, we are taking the necessary steps to provide this guide to the people of Louisiana."

The comprehensive guide provides information about the supplies needed in a personal emergency response kit, checklists should an emergency occur and information about known chemical and biological threats such as anthrax, botulism, plague and smallpox, as well as SARS and West Nile virus. The guide outlines how medicines can be accessed and distributed during a crisis, and it even includes a hurricane preparation guide.

The guide is being produced and distributed with funding from the federal government through special bioterrorism grants that have totaled more than $16 million over the past two years.

Hood added that he hopes people will look for the guide in the paper.

"During this time of the year, newspapers are full of advertisements and inserts. Although most people look for these, I know that some toss them away without looking," he said. "I am appealing to people to make a special effort to seek this guide, and if you do not have a newspaper subscription, please go to the store and purchase Saturday’s edition."

Grants provided by the Centers for Disease Control already have allowed LDH and its Office of Public Health to improve the public health infrastructure by hiring specially trained staff in all nine regions of the state, improving communication systems, preparing distribution sites for vaccinations and improving partnerships with other local, state and federal agencies.

The Family Readiness Guide can found at the LDH website.