The annual influenza season doesn’t begin until October, but a group of Brown County officials are continuing their work to be prepared for what is considered a much greater health threat.

The local Pandemic Flu Community Planning Group, which meets monthly, is planning a public awareness campaign during September, which has been declared National Preparedness Month.

A pandemic is any disease for which humans have no natural immunity and that is easily spread from human to human. Historically, three pandemics develop in the world each century, and health experts predict that avian flu will be the next pandemic as it spreads from Asia and mutates from fowl to affect people.

“We are joining a wide variety of national, state and local organizations, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in educating the public about preparing for emergencies,” said Jennifer McNiece, preparedness coordinator with the Brownwood-Brown County Health Department.

“When unexpected natural or man-made emergencies occur, our greatest individual defense is preparedness. Getting an emergency supply kit, making an emergency plan, and identifying preparedness and response resources within our communities are several things we can do to prepare ourselves.”

McNiece said the focus of the planning group is pandemic flu, a topic about which group members have been speaking to local business and civic organizations in recent months.

“We have a grant to prepare for pandemic flu, so that’s the focus of our planning,” McNiece said. “But that type of plan can be used for any disaster or emergency that requires community response.”

The group is also making plans to highlight its community awareness campaign during the Brownwood Reunion Celebration Sept. 14-16. A booth will be staffed with information.

“We encourage any citizens of Brownwood with questions about their family’s preparedness or about what the committee is doing to visit us during that time,” McNiece said. “When unexpected natural or man-made emergencies occur, our greatest individual defense is preparedness. Getting an emergency supply kit, making an emergency plan, and identifying preparedness and response resources within our communities are several things we can do to prepare ourselves.”

Representatives from the local health department, City of Brownwood Department of Emergency Management, Department of Public Safety, Guardian EMS, the Red Cross, Brownwood Regional Medical Center and Brownwood ISD participated in an exercise earlier this month to review the group’s plan.

“The purpose of the exercise was to determine what local resources are available and what coordination could take place between local organizations in the event of a health emergency, particularly a pandemic flu outbreak,” McNiece said.

The group will continue to meet and update each organization’s plans, she added.