Governor Gets Oregon Ready to Deal with Health Emergency

Working with State and Local governments the Governor recently lead Oregon in an exercise to test the capability of the state and local health departments to quickly respond and distribute medical care to Oregonians potentially exposed to a deadly disease. The Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) developed the exercise based on the state's plan for responding to a major disease outbreak in Oregon and is part of a national public health emergency preparedness effort.

"The recent hurricanes have heightened awareness that states need to be ready at every level to respond to broad-scale emergencies," said Governor Ted Kulongoski. "This exercise models the medical distribution system health officials would use to respond to various potentially serious diseases – including plague, anthrax or possibly influenza. These planning and preparations are critical to our emergency preparedness and could make a life-saving difference to Oregonians."

Susan Allan, M.D., public health director in DHS, said the exercise is designed to test the state's ability to respond to a public health emergency, evaluate how well the current state response plan works and give staff the opportunity to practice working under an incident command system structure. The exercise focuses on the detection of an outbreak, process for requesting federal medical resources and how state and local authorities would receive and deploy antibiotics and other medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) throughout Oregon.

DHS is leading state-level operations and local and regional exercises are occurring in Benton, Deschutes, Hood River, Josephine, Lane, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah and Washington counties.

The exercise tests specific elements of an SNS operation, including the ability to:

· Implement SNS request procedures
· Activate and operate state and local emergency operations centers
· Manage and distribute SNS vaccine and other medical assets
· Effectively coordinate public information
· Allocate resources

Confirm existence of multiple communication channels among state and local agencies
Evaluators are on hand to assess pre-defined elements of the state's response plan and a full assessment of the exercise will provide important feedback for improvements, according to Allan.

Posted on December 1, 2005
Front Page News, Public Safety