Communities prepare for epidemic outbreak with emergency drill

By Lisa Stone - ReminderNews
Windsor/South Windsor - posted Mon., Oct. 28, 2013
The director of health in Windsor, Dr. Mike Pepe, oversees the entire drill. Photos by Lisa Stone.
The director of health in Windsor, Dr. Mike Pepe, oversees the entire drill. Photos by Lisa Stone.

The towns of Windsor and South Windsor held a joint mock-emergency drill on Oct. 19 at South Windsor High School to be prepared against the potential threat of an epidemic outbreak. Officials from both towns have formed the public health Mass Dispensing Area 31, which is a preventative to chaos in case of a public health outbreak.

Windsor Director of Health Dr. Mike Pepe was the incident commander of the operation. “We are running a drill today,” said Pepe. “We are simulating an outbreak of anthrax. We are setting up for the epidemic and preparing all the proper medical needs that we would have to have on hand if this were a real emergency. We strive to be ready, just in case.”

For the drill, volunteers were timed as they went through all the activities that would need to be performed in the event of a real emergency. Upon entering the gym, people followed a yellow tape as they went from one step to the other. Volunteers at each point assisted the crowd and processed the evaluations of their health needs.

“There would be a physician on hand for help with evaluations,” said Pepe. “The people would have to fill out a questionnaire to help determine their level of exposure and to make certain that we are aware of all of their medical conditions. In the end, the physician would have the final say if there were any questions as to how to handle the patient. There will be a full medical staff that would confer. The staff consists of registered nurses and medical physicians.”

The very first step, according to Pepe, would be to send out an alert. The idea is to let residents know there is a possibility of an outbreak. This would get people to seek the care they need. Once they reach either Point of Distribution – South Windsor High or the Wilson Fire House in Windsor – and they have filled out the questionnaire, their needs are evaluated by the staff and brought through the proper channels. In most cases, it would just be a matter of administering the proper medication.

“There is a plan that we follow, but the drill is set up to make us aware of any changes that would be necessary at any point,” said MDA 31 coordinator Allyson Schulz. “The timing of each step is very important. If we see a need to change our procedures to speed up the process, we will do that. We have mock medications to work with to really get the feeling of what it would be like if this were a real emergency.”

Another aspect to the plan would be security. Windsor Police Captain Thomas E. LePore and South Windsor’s Deputy Chief of Police, Timothy M. Edwards, were assigned the task of evaluating the security needs of the program.

“Obviously, the more serious the outbreak is, the more panic the residents will be experiencing,” said Edwards. “If the residents are calm and we can get the vaccines administered without much commotion, the need for security would be less than a more serious epidemic like anthrax.”

“We are working together to better serve the community,” said LePore. “We are doing our evaluation and we will be giving the committee members our findings.”

The planning committee meets every other week.

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