When it comes to preparing for the unexpected, community colleges can be an invaluable resource.

That’s certainly the case when it comes to the partnership between SUNY Broome’s health sciences programs and the Tioga County Health Department. SUNY Broome has programs for both nurses and medical assistants, and students in both programs get clinical experience by helping out at the health department.

“I have found an untapped gem for our county: community colleges,” Sue Haskett, emergency preparedness coordinator with the Tioga County Health Department, said in a recent presentation to the New York State Department of Health.

Students have actively participated in the Tioga County Health Department’s “Say Boo to the Flu” clinic for the last two years. This year, they will be participating in a Disaster Management Drill on Wednesday, Oct. 29 in Owego, working with mock patients and gathering information to submit into the electronic record.

“This partnership has evolved over the years and is now a two-way street,” said Haskett.

Haskett points out that SUNY Broome has held its own Mock Environmental Disaster Event for the past three years; she serves on the committee behind the event. Students in 14 different programs participate, and the Tioga County Health Department takes part in the planning meetings and observation during the event.

Students receive hands-on training on what the health department can do during a disaster, and are also encouraged to join ServNY, a registry of health care and mental health professionals who wish to volunteer during an emergency or major disaster. Because community colleges tend to draw local people who remain in the community after graduation, the students go on to enrich the community with their skills.

“We are very grateful for our partnering with a community college,” Haskett said. “It has filled a void in the planning and preparing for any emergency.”