County to Hold Drill on Managing Emergency Medications During Outbreak
May 2, 2006
Local health and law enforcement officials will hold a drill Thursday, May 4 to test Contra Costa County's ability to obtain emergency medical supplies from the federal Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) following a mock anthrax attack. The drill is part of a statewide exercise with the California Department of Health Services and Emergency Medical Services Authority.
A large-scale health emergency or disaster -- such as a disease outbreak like pandemic flu or a terrorist attack- would quickly overwhelm local resources, making it necessary for local health authorities to turn to the federal government for help, said Kim Cox, Health Emergency Response Coordinator for Contra Costa Health Services' (CCHS) Public Health Division.
"In a pandemic flu outbreak or bioterrorism attack, we might have to provide medications to all our residents, more than one million people. Our supplies would quickly be depleted. The SNS program is designed to help save lives by providing large quantities of essential medications and equipment when local or regional supplies have been exhausted," said Cox, who organized the drill with federal funding through the state of California.
Managed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the SNS Program provides an initial delivery of supplies to the state within 12 hours of a request from the governor. SNS supplies are stored in strategic locations around the United States to ensure rapid delivery to any location. The state receives the delivery and then arranges for supplies to be transported to the affected areas.
As part of the drill, Contra Costa County's General Services and Public Works departments will open a warehouse to receive and deliver simulated supplies. The warehouse's location will not be disclosed because of security issues, but the mock supplies will be delivered via a police escort to the Richmond Memorial Auditorium. In a real emergency, various sites around the county would serve as mass clinics where people would go to receive medication. Vaccinations won't be part of this drill, but the health department has held previous exercises involving mass vaccination clinics.
Law enforcement will play an important role in ensuring the public receives needed medications, Cox said. The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office and Office of Emergency Services, Richmond Police and other local police agencies will participate in the drill. Being involved in the exercise is part of Contra Costa's ongoing emergency preparedness efforts, Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Hebel said.
"Preparing now for the worst is vital to our response and recovery efforts during an actual emergency. This drill allows us to practice working together so we can do our best during the real thing," Hebel said. Other counties statewide are holding their own drills the same week.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Photo opportunities will be available at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium loading dock, 403 Civic Center Plaza, where supplies will arrive about 11:45 a.m. Thursday, May 4. Media should confirm arrival time by calling CCHS Communications Officer Julie Freestone at 925-313-6268 or 510-406-0140.
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