Emergency preparedness exercise is 'eye opening' experience
You're walking the grounds of your local county fair, cheese curds in hand, your beloved family at your side. As you stroll the grounds, you notice a low flying plane pass over the busy crowd, from its crop dusting equipment an aerosolized form of anthrax is sprayed, which infects the entire crowd in an instant.
What do you do?
Maybe more importantly, what do health and emergency staff do to handle a case like this that impacts a large population near you?
An exercise on Wednesday, April 17, in Wadena brought together about 25 people from Wadena, Todd and Morrison county health departments and county commissions to consider that scenario. It was an unusual one for sure, but regardless of the health scare, the group found there are certain steps that can be followed to stay calm in the chaos. The meeting made it clear just how important it is to properly train and inform more people about being prepared.
Who is in charge? What if they are gone? Where do vaccines come from? Who do you contact? Who should be contained? Is it safe to bring all people to one site? Where is the point of distribution? Where is the backup site? Those were many of the questions brought forth by commissioners as they discussed the many variables that come with each disaster.
In this given scenario, the first part involved putting out a call to those listed as contacts in the health department. The scenario also considered that one third of that staff would not be available for the next 24 hours. It was a bit alarming to hear that while the health departments knew what to do, few other groups outside of emergency services staff might know what to do in their place.
David Determan, Todd County Health and Human Services emergency preparedness director heard the comment about why not more points of distribution (POD), places where people would gather to get a vaccine in case of a breakout.
"We don't have enough people to staff one POD for 36 hours," Determan said.
In fact, many of the people listed as emergency contacts wear several hats, if one is missing, it puts much more work on the shoulders of others. The point was, preparing as many people as possible was key to success.
The group heard that Wadena County's POD was M State in Wadena. If a disaster happened to be close to that site, Sebeka School would be a secondary option.
Another point of discussion was that no matter how prepared the group was, if a vaccine needed to be administered in an orderly fashion, there are still some that would not readily have access to it or want it.
Wadena County Public Health director Cindy Pederson noted that just a couple public health nurses are capable of administering vaccines at very fast rates. But the logistics involved in getting people where they need to be and getting them what they need, was a bit intimidating.
What can take more time may be actually getting the vaccine, which would be shipped by UPS, taking up to 12 hours, Determan said. And what conditions were needed to store those vaccines was another consideration.
Discussion moved to how the immobile could be reached. Reaching out to bussing services, assisted living centers and church groups to identify homebound members of the public. Amish neighborhoods were also a part of those that may be hard to reach and might not be accepting of a vaccine.
The conversation went far and wide and attendees seemed to find the meeting beneficial to start the conversation about preparedness.
The group will have another go at it, to another level, when they attend a four hour exercise with a date yet to be determined in Wadena and Morrison county. Todd County set there exercise for May 20.
All this training will be helpful as the state prepares for a statewide full scale exercise in the summer of 2020.
Help for mothers and babies
• Another part of the discussion during what was an annual Community Health Board meeting, focused on a grant application to receive funds that could help the health departments provide services to mothers and babies in Region 5. The application through Sourcewell would go to support mental health for moms, who may be suffering from postpartum depression. It would allow one one one intervention to support the moms going through a difficult time. A second part of the funding could support lactation training for moms.
• Another highlight of the meeting was the topic of E-WIC. Instead of the paper vouchers used for purchasing foods in the WIC program, plastic cards will be used by families to purchase starting April 22.
WIC numbers indicated that participation rates have dropped from 1,940 in 2016, to 1,545 in 2018.
• A community health assessment has been taken and results are in. About 22-25% of surveys were returned according to staff and they will now be doing the difficult work of analysing the data. More data would be shared in coming months.
• Car seat clinics continue in the region. At a recent clinic 75% failure rate was noted, meaning of the 72 car seat installations checked, 54 were installed incorrectly.