quickly," said Desmond.
The state manages the Michigan Health Alert Network, but it's also designed to support local public health departments. Local emergency preparedness coordinators have alerting rights similar to state agencies, and use the infrastructure to conduct their own operations.
"That creates a great sense of ownership in the system," Colville said. "It's viewed as much less of a 'state' system and more of a tool for the locals to use for their own notification needs."
Michigan simplified management of the network by making users responsible for updating their contact information. Every 30 days, the network automatically asks users for updated information when they log on to the system.
Users also specify which modes of communication to use for varying levels of alerts. Low-priority messages may be sent to work phones or e-mail addresses, while high-priority alerts could be sent to a pagers, mobile phones and home phones.
After each alert, the state Department of Community Health works with local Health Alert Network coordinators to weed out incorrect phone numbers or e-mail addresses. "We have a fairly elaborate quality control process," Colville said. "When we send out messages to 2,000 people, we get very little garbage back."
The network gives Michigan a powerful, flexible tool for protecting citizens from hazards ranging from infectious diseases to bioterrorism attacks. "This project has been quite successful," Colville said. "We're much better prepared to respond to public health threats."
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