03/01/06 — Agencies will discuss how to handle emergency

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Agencies will discuss how to handle emergency

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 1, 2006 1:53 PM

Agencies across the county have been invited to attend an awareness training this month designed to fortify emergency preparedness measures.

The Strategic National Stockpile, or SNS, Road Show will be March 24 at Wayne Memorial Hospital. Among those expected to attend are representatives from the city, county and municipalities, emergency services and health agencies, schools and colleges and the media.

David Hesselmeyer, bioterrorism planner/coordinator with Wayne County Health Department, said the idea for the road show was born out of the need for widespread involvement.

"If we do have an emergency, it's largely not going to be just one agency responding. It's going to take a whole community response," he said. "The SNS Road Show allows us to pull in as many of the partners as we can get to the table, to be able to show them some things we're doing, some things on the Health Department side, how we might be able to incorporate responses with all of us working together."

In a letter sent out to agencies last month, Hesselmeyer issued a reminder of how the events of Sept. 11, 2001 changed public sensibilities.

"It became very clear that our nation is not immune to an attack on its soil. An attack could be chemical, nuclear, explosive or biological in nature," he wrote, adding that an attack could also take on other forms, such as infectious diseases. Such events would require many resources and the public will be reliant on governing bodies and agencies to mitigate the situation, he said.

"Providing medication and treatment to the entire population of Wayne County will prove to be one of the biggest challenges we face," he said.

The awareness training will focus on the Strategic National Stockpile, a cache of medications and related materials that can be delivered to any local county in the nation.

"SNS is a large grouping of medications, medical supplies, pre-positioned throughout the United States," Hesselmeyer explained.

There are two main factions of SNS, he said. The 12-hour "push package," for a variety of emergencies, is secured in secret locations throughout the country and can be accessed and delivered as necessary. Vendor-managed inventory is similar but more specific and localized, he said, making it easier to deliver within communities.

Among the speakers at the March training will be two representatives from the Public Health Regional Surveillance Team, or PHRST. The support teams meet monthly across the state's seven regions, holding open forums and receiving training from experts in the field, Hesselmeyer said.

Eleanor Lunasin, regional pharmacist for two regions, will talk about SNS at the state and federal levels. Wendy Boggs, regional nurse for PHRST Team 5, will address the local side of things, what generally happens and the effects.

Hesselmeyer will be responsible for the "action part" of the agenda, he said.

He said he will share "what we have been doing, everything we're going to do, here's how we're looking to the future and trying to get these people involved."

There will also be a time for questions and discussion of areas of concern. Advance response has been very positive, Hesselmeyer said.

"Everyone we have been talking to has been wonderful. We have invited about 90 people and within one week of sending the invitations out, have at least one-third confirmed that they will attend and others trying to rearrange their schedules to be there," he said. "The commitment by all these agencies shows how hard we all want to work to be prepared for the citizens, to make sure they're taken care of."

He said that the grassroots support will benefit entire communities. Working together will also prove worthwhile when it comes time to handle a variety of emergencies, he said.

"With all these agencies wanting to get involved and pledging support to get involved, it shows just how hard they're willing to work."