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May 2, 2014

Preparing for the worst: Local agencies, volunteers execute public health emergency drill

Local agencies, volunteers execute public health emergency drill

One by one, Suzy Leicht, a nurse with the Cass County Health Department, went over the health information of Logansport High School students playing the roles of victims suffering from an exposure to anthrax in a terrorist attack at the Logansport Mall.

Some of them were more exposed than others, some had medical allergies and some had children and family members relying on them who had been exposed. Leicht and the other volunteers at her table had to take all of these variables and more into consideration when determining what kind of medication and how much of it to give to each person they spoke with.

During a public health emergency like a large-scale disease outbreak or bioterrorism event, the Cass County Health Department would need to provide antibiotics or vaccines at a point of dispensing, or POD, to quickly distribute preventive medications to a large number of people. About 30 volunteers hailing from the health department, Logansport Fire Department, Logansport Police Department, Cass County Sheriff’s Department, Cass County Fire District and Cass County Emergency Management Agency gathered at the Berry Bowl Thursday to practice for such an event should it or anything like it ever occur.

”This is one thing we’ve got to be prepared for and hope we never use,” said Bob Vernon, office administrator of the Cass County Health Department.

The goal of Thursday’s exercise was to get a 10-day supply of the proper medication to those who had been exposed to the deadly spore. Vernon explained that in a real-life situation, another POD would be established eight days later to provide victims with more.

Logansport High School students and other volunteers taking on the roles of the victims started out at a check-in table, where clipboards with health information forms were waiting for them to be taken to tables in a registration area. From there, they were escorted to a screening table, where they spoke with nurses and other medically trained volunteers, who determined which medication and how much of it they needed. Their final stop was at a dispensing table, where they received their medications, which for the purposes of the drill consisted of crackers and candy.

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