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Mock anthrax crisis showed readiness of alert system

Apr 18, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff Writer

A recent readiness drill tested the preparedness of the Fremont County Public Health Department in dealing with a large-scale anthrax exposure.

The exercise also tested the alert system of Central Wyoming College. On the Fremont County Public Health Department side, the drill was intended to test its ability to disseminate information and prophylactic medication -- medication that would prevent the spread of a disease or infection.

The Fremont County Public Health Department was notified at 8 a.m. March 25 about the drill by the emergency alert system, which requested that all county health personnel report to CWC.

College students and faculty received text messages, e-mails and phone calls at 9:45 a.m. March 26 as part of the Rustler Alert System, which advised them to report to the gymnasium on campus. Roughly 218 people participated in the drill.

Public Information Officer Teresa Nirider said the goals for the exercise were to test communication, increase the capabilities of the health department to respond to a biological incident and test the partnering ability of the department and CWC in the distribution of emergency medication.

"We are hoping to test how many people we can get through the gym within two hours, because in the event of a biological exposure, we would want to get people in and out in 10 minutes," Nirider said.

The drill was carried out according to the Strategic National Stockpile Plan guidelines, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contract deliverables for emergency preparedness.

"The purpose of this exercise is to test a timely response during a public health emergency involving SNS assets being deployed in the community," Nirider said. "We will be practicing the distribution of medication due to a biological exposure to a large amount of people in a short amount of time."

Nursing program director Kathy Wells said most of the nurses participating in the drill were in the fourth semester of their studies and hoped to graduate in May.

"This exercise exposes our students to the roles our nurses have with our community in general," Wells said.

Students from Jackson and CWC participated in the drill and were given specific duties that included triage, flow control, registration, forms screening, medical screening, dispensing and education forms.

Nursing student Sarah Wilkins, who travelled from Jackson early Monday to participate, was assigned to work in triage.

"I wanted to see how the whole process worked, and it was interesting to see that nurses have a lot of different roles, and public health is a big one," Wilkins said.

The event was not open to the public, however, media representatives were invited to participate because in the case of an actual emergency, the media would "play key roles in directing people on what they needed to do," Nirider said.

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