Disaster drill emphasizes importance of proper procedures

By Gregory A. Scibelli - Staff Writer
Windsor, South Windsor - posted Fri., Jun. 24, 2011
Retired pharmacist Jerry Bitzkowski holds 'medication' at the disaster drill. Photos by Gregory A. Scibelli.
Retired pharmacist Jerry Bitzkowski holds 'medication' at the disaster drill. Photos by Gregory A. Scibelli.

It was not a fun experience having to distribute the vaccine for the H1N1 virus, or to endure the mass hysteria that went along with a flu epidemic, but it was a necessary drill, and volunteer and retired pharmacist Jerry Bitzkowski knows that.

“It’s what I can do to give back to the community,” he said of the mock disaster exercise in which he participated on June 23.

Bitzkowski was among dozens of volunteers who took part in the drill at Windsor High School.

With the aid of several town departments, volunteers and members of the public took time out of their day to visit the local distribution point of the local Mass Dispensing Area.

The MDA#31 region consists of Windsor and South Windsor.  A combination of the two towns’ public safety officials and health officials get together monthly to discuss potential medical emergencies where an MDA could be necessary. Volunteers, like Bitzkowski, also turn out to help with the distribution.

“This is an important thing to know,” said Bitzkowski. “I enjoy being here and trying to make a difference and keep people healthy.”

The MDA’s purpose is to be a point of contact for residents to receive vaccinations, medication and other medical treatment necessary in a large-scale emergency.

For the drill that took place at Windsor High School, the group was responding to a theoretical outbreak of aerosolized anthrax.

Medication to fight the effects of anthrax comes in pill form. Residents are notified of the location of the MDA and are instructed to send the heads of their household there to receive medication for their families to vaccinate against the deadly chemical.

Sgt. Scott Custer of the South Windsor Police Department is the public information officer for the MDA. He said residents who show up to the location are briefed on the process and must go from station to station to receive the medication they need.

“It’s important that everyone follows the procedures because we’re dealing with very important medication,” said Custer. “It’s also important that things occur in an organized and orderly manner.”

He said there are many volunteers and public officials at the MDA to help residents who may be confused and need to be calmed. There are also planned quarantined areas for any residents who show up with signs of whatever the outbreak is. EMTs are on hand for treatment.

A typical resident shows up at the MDA and fills out a form with detailed information about everyone who is living in their house.  They must note any allergies, and depending on the medication, the person’s weight, because it affects dosage levels.

An official checks the form and sends them to the distribution line or to a consultation if further attention is needed.

The person picks up the necessary medication and is checked out, thereby free to leave the building. There are people on hand to handle English translation and special needs, if that is required.  There are also people available to help with the handling of children, if it is necessary to bring them to the MDA.

Custer said the drill went extremely well and he was happy so many people showed up to go through the process.

“The people coming through here helps put the word out, and people know that this exists,” said Custer.

Officials from both Windsor and South Windsor worked together to run the various stations. The two towns work together on the drills each year and alternate where the drill will be held.

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