The Homeland Security Administration requires local health departments to develop plans for distributing medications from the Strategic National Stockpile of pharmaceuticals and in coordination with local emergency operations centers.
“When most people think of disasters, airplane crashes, explosions, or floods may come to mind. But a communicable disease outbreak can be a disaster too,” said Carol Paxton, Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. “Diseases such as anthrax, plague, or tularemia can devastate communities without plans for quickly distributing life-saving medications to large numbers of residents and visitors.”
The agencies that participated in the exercise were the Health Department, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Emergency Management from Antrim, Emmet, and Otsego counties, and the sheriff departments from Emmet and Charlevoix counties. The Michigan Department of Community Health also participated.
The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) is maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) & Prevention. Once local and federal authorities agree that it is needed, medicine and medical supplies can be quickly delivered to any state in the U.S. within 12 hours.
The exercise tested how SNS medications and supplies will be delivered, stored, and repackaged for distribution to clinics. “If there is a real emergency that requires supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile of pharmaceuticals, it’s our job to repackage it for local communities and get it out in clinics as quickly as possible,” Paxton said. “It is daunting to think about a real life scenario where we have to dispense medications to all residents in our four-county Health District within 48 hours to prevent deaths or serious illness. Still, we have to be ready. And we couldn’t do it without support and assistance from our community partners.”
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information about the exercise, call Paxton at 231-547-6523. For additional information about the CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile visit www.bt.cdc.gov/stockpile.