ST. REGIS FALLS — Minor computer glitches were all that slowed a anthrax-exposure drill Friday that tested the preparedness of Franklin County Public Health staff.
Franklin County is one of the first in the state to complete the exercise, which is mandated by the State Health Department, said Director Katie Strack.
The state plans to evaluate how well counties have benefited from state-issued disaster-preparedness funding provided following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
About 50 student “victims” from St. Regis Falls Central School volunteered to preregister, check in and move through waiting lines to a bank of nurses who dispensed “medicine” and gave follow-up instructions, which is exactly what would happen in a real emergency.
Strack was the incident commander, and the exercise was coordinated by Patty McGillicuddy as operations manager and Michael Harrigan as the logistics manager.
Timing is a crucial component in a real disaster, and the state wanted to see counties simulate treating as many as 200 people an hour and an entire county population within 48 hours.
“There were a few computer hiccups,” Strack said.
But the average processing time per person, she saw in randomly chosen paperwork, was between four and nine minutes, with a low of three minutes and a high of 15 minutes.
Considering this was the first time the staff was tested like this, she said, “I don’t think that’s bad at all.”
‘LIKE A CRIME SCENE’
“We did see we have to get quicker with the lines, but this is the first time, and the state needs to hear it so they can pass it on to other counties as they prepare,” Strack told her team in an after-event briefing.
Held at the St. Regis Falls Adult Center, the drill was one of the final pieces of the training and execution of a dispensing exercise that began Wednesday with the county’s Emergency Services Department, Health Department and Sheriff’s Department; State Police and other agencies practicing decontamination, communications, security and other techniques needed during a real event.