Health drill to cause traffic delays |

Health drill to cause traffic delays

Staff Report

Garfield County emergency planners, responders and volunteers will participate in a two-day full-scale Public Health Emergency Dispensing exercise, which may cause excess traffic and potential delays in Rifle on Railroad Avenue near the Garfield County Fairgrounds on Friday, June 16. The exercise will test the community’s response procedures during a health crisis, and the county invites community members to volunteer to help simulate how residents might respond in a true health emergency. Counties statewide will do the same June 15-16.

Traffic and potential delays will be limited to Howard Avenue and Railroad Avenue near the fairgrounds from approximately noon to 2 pm.

The exercise will engage partners in responding to a hypothetical disease outbreak and will specifically test resource distribution and dispensing, information sharing and the ability to coordinate among multiple emergency operations centers. It will help identify future training needs, best practices and areas for emergency preparedness improvement.

To volunteer to take part in the exercise, head to the Garfield County Fairgrounds, 1001 Railroad Ave. in Rifle, on Friday, June 16, from noon to 2 p.m. Volunteers will queue in line to complete mock medical screening paperwork, talk to medical screeners, receive pretend medications, and exit the site.

“Volunteers from the community can also help us by driving through the fairgrounds where we will practice dispensing medication,” said Anna Cochran, Environmental Health Specialist with Garfield County Public Health. Volunteers can enter the site by car from Railroad Avenue for a drive-through option or park at 195 W. 14th St., and walk to the North Hall area at the fairgrounds.

Volunteers will not be asked to provide real medical information, and they will not receive real medications. “Everything will be a simulation, but this will give our local public health and emergency response team a chance to practice what it would look like to respond to a large-scale public health emergency,” said Cochran.

“If there were to be an emergency such as an anthrax release or pandemic influenza, Garfield County would collaborate with local, state and federal partners and activate a Strategic National Stockpile plan. This plan allows us to receive life-saving medications to dispense to the public,” she continued.

PHED Ex is the last event of a three-part exercise series that began in 2015. Garfield County Public Health began preparing for the exercise a year in advance.

“Public Health and hospitals statewide will practice ordering and receiving medical supplies from federal stockpiles. These stockpiles are designed to ensure that medicine and supplies would be available when needed in the event of a public health emergency,” Cochrane.

During the drill, medical supplies and empty pill bottles from the Strategic National Stockpile will be flown into the region by airplane and delivered by trucks.

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