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Wilkes-Barre Health Department to Exercise Public Health Emergency Preparedness Plans

The Wilkes-Barre City Health Department will be exercising its public health emergency preparedness plans on Saturday, October 13th, in the parking lot of the Kistler Elementary School. As part of this exercise, City residents will be able to receive a free drive-through flu vaccine shot, from 9 AM to 1 PM.

 

The purpose of the exercise is to validate the effectiveness and efficacy of the Luzerne County Mass Distribution of Medical Counter Measures plan. The plan recognizes Kistler Elementary in South Wilkes-Barre, as well as Dan Flood Elementary School in North End, as Points of Dispensing (POD). A POD is a location where medication is dispensed, and most PODs are schools. A POD would be used in the unlikely event there would be the need to quickly provide citizens either an oral medication or vaccine, through the Mass Distribution of Medical Counter Measures (MDMC). Last fall, a similar exercise was conducted at Dan Flood Elementary School.

 

The activation of a POD for the affected but not symptomatic population in Luzerne County would be the result of a potential public health emergency of either natural or manmade event (all hazard event). The use of a POD would be the primary method to provide MDMC to the general population without adding undue pressure on an already over utilized health care system in a public emergency.

 

In the event of any all hazard event that requires rapid dispensing of either oral or vaccine medication, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will coordinate with states, counties, and local communities the deployment of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The SNS is a CDC supplied repository of antibiotics, vaccines, chemical antidotes, antitoxins, and other critical medical equipment and supplies. The final step in the SNS process is providing the medical materials to citizens at a local level through a POD.

 

By simulating an actual public health emergency, the Wilkes-Barre Health Department will be testing its ability to provide any medication in an emergency. This simulation of the MDMC further benefits residents, as it will provide Wilkes-Barre citizens with flu vaccine shots. If a resident can be given flu shot, then they would be able to receive any vaccine in a real public health emergency. Residents should not see any difference, in the flu clinic held as part of the exercise, just a renewed emphasize on being prepared for any all hazards emergency.

 

The operation of a POD, as detailed in the POD Operations Manual, is primarily based around the use of a school gym. A more difficult operation is the exercise of an alternate modality, such as a Drive-Through POD. A Drive-Through POD is when individuals will be dispensed medication from their vehicles, never even having to enter the school. This alternate modality requires much more coordination with diverse emergency partners.

 

In addition to health department staff, residents can expect to see other first responders assisting with the Kistler POD Operations Exercise including fire fighters, police officers, EMS, EMA, and public works.

 

The Wilkes-Barre Health Department also will be utilizing its Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to assist in the operation of the Kistler POD. The FEMA CERT Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. The Wilkes-Barre Health Department CERT volunteers are an integral part of any public health emergency response.

 

This public health emergency preparedness exercise meets one of the goals of President Trump’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism (NSCT – October 2018), which states: “We will also train federal, state, and local interlocutors on interaction with the public that foster a culture of preparedness and resilience.”


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