North Central Health District Trained in SNS

September 4, 2013
Originally published March 12, 2012
If there were an aerosolized anthrax attack and masses of people required prophylactic medication, who would provide it? If there were a smallpox outbreak and a vaccination center had to open, who would open it?
For years, public health departments and health districts have been planning for a worst case scenario requiring that every resident receive medication in a 48 hour time period. That medication would come from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention's (CDC) Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) Program. The SNS program guarantees that during a Public Health event, stockpiled medication will arrive in a timely manner to try to prevent as much illness as possible.
After the medication is delivered, what next? On February 21 and February 23, 2012, the North Central Health District (NCHD) held trainings to answer that question. Approximately 210 people representing the 13 counties in the NCHD attended the training to better understand the purpose and flow of a mass dispensing site (also known as a Point of Dispensing or POD). The trainings were held in actual sites that would be used for mass dispensing in a real event.
Training participants included health department staff, law enforcement, business leaders, Central Georgia Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, EMA, EMS, to name a few.
When the training participants arrived, they were assigned to one of six groups that would rotate to six different training sessions throughout the day. Each session taught about a major function of a dispensing site and included a practical activity to reinforce the concept.
The six sessions were:
  1. Command & Control: In this section, training participants learned about how the Incident Command System is used during a dispensing or vaccination event. They learned the roles of the Incident Commander, Public Information Officer, Safety Officer, Liaison Officer, Operations Section, Planning Section, Logistics Section, and Finance/Administration Section.
  2. Resources: This section discussed primarily credentialing, badging, and volunteer assignments. Trainees learned how important this assignment is.
  3. Intake: Trainers in this section spoke on the importance of the intake area including greeters and triage. They also spoke on the forms that would be given.
  4. Forms Review: In this training, participants learned about how to use an algorithm to decide which medication would be dispensed.
  5. Dispensing: This section was dedicated to teaching how to dispense medication using the information provided on the form.
  6. Special Needs/Medical Evaluation: This section focused on how language and access needs would be addressed during a dispensing event. Participants also learned about Medical Evaluation that may be necessary.
Karen Ebey-Tessendorf, Director of Emergency Preparedness for NCHD, said, "We planned this training because we wanted to increase the number of trained personnel to work in mass dispensing sites. We are delighted with the response from the Public Health departments and their partners."

Participant evaluations from the training show that many attendees felt that they now have a better understanding of the purpose of a dispensing site and are more comfortable with their assigned role.

Kim Wittenberg, Central Georgia Medical Reserve Corps volunteer, said, "I learned how important it is for more people to get involved with mass dispensing of medication. I see this as something really valuable if there is any kind of bioterrorist attack on the United States. It's vital for people to understand what they are doing in order to save as many lives as we can."

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