Health officials to have mock emergency exercise

Failing to plan is planning to fail.In the event of an emergency, the Sweetwater Nolan County Health Department is responsible for providing mass vaccinations and medications (both oral and injectable) to the entire population of both Nolan and Fisher Counties. Whether it is a bioterrorist attack or a natural occurring pandemic, the health department must be prepared to medicate or inoculate all residents within 36 hours. Ongoing planning and practice is essential and required in order to protect the community in the event of a disaster. On Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Nolan County Coliseum, the Sweetwater-Nolan County Health Department in conjunction with the local Emergency Management and community volunteers will be conducting an exercise to simulate a widespread flu pandemic that would require the deployment of Strategic National Stockpile vaccine and mass vaccination of our entire population. In an actual pandemic situation the ability to execute would significantly influence survival rate. The same procedure will be used for other biological events such as smallpox, anthrax, etc. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) the health department must be able to vaccinate our entire population within 36 hours.This exercise will be a drive through point of dispensing site, where the citizens would stay in their vehicles and receive vaccinations through their car windows. During an actual public health event where a highly contagious disease is widespread, this scenario will be used if at all possible. For this pandemic influenza outbreak exercise, City of Sweetwater and Nolan County employees have been invited to participate between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. They will be able to stay in their vehicles as responders administer the flu vaccine in the parking area in front of the coliseum and annex. Communication between agencies, partnerships and volunteers is crucial to a community’s ability to be prepared. Nolan County has active and dedicated personnel and organizations who work for the safety of its citizens. Assisting in the exercise are the Sweetwater Fire Department, Nolan County Sheriff’s Office, Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital, Big Country Medical Reserve Corps, Sweetwater Police Department, Hoyt House, City of Sweetwater employees, Nolan County employees and Nolan County elected officials. Volunteer evaluators from Snyder Emergency Management, Abilene and Brownwood Public Health Preparedness and West Texas RAC will be observing and offering expertise for improvement.The Sweetwater Nolan County Health Department is also asking for community volunteers to assist with this emergency preparedness exercise on Tuesday. Volunteers play a vital role in the success of a community’s response to an emergency situation. To volunteer for this exercise, contact the health department at 235-5463. Medical expertise is not mandatory for volunteers.