Emergency plans are being made and set into action all over the state this week. Fortunately, there’s no real disaster but Suzanne Cooner, vice-president of operations for Grinnell Medical Center, says it’s part of a very big drill.”Iowa Operation Checkered Flag” is a regional bio-chem exercise, a drill designed by the state Public Health Department in conjunction with half a dozen hospitals and public-health agencies in Iowa. Cooner says earlier in the week three of the six completed their drill, and today the other half begin. They’re testing the ability to administer wide-scale medication like mass vaccination, and she says if one case of smallpox were found in the US it’d be considered a health emergency and everyone would have three or four days to vaccinate all the people. Today’s a “tabletop drill,” in which planners lay out and talk through what their plan would be, and how they’d carry it out. The drill includes the likelihood that something will complicate the situation, including the chance for a deliberate secondary attack. Someone will start something and as the emergency-responders get to work they’ll set off a fake secondary attack like a bomb, to put as much strain on the resources that’re being tested as possible. At nine Friday morning the mock vaccination clinic begins, and by 9:30 a secondary event will be added — they don’t know just what the second incident will be, but it’ll include the necessity for the emergency drill to include mock decontamination of 50 people. The drills completed earlier this week were in Clarion, Orange City and Harlan. Today’s tabletop exercise and tomorrow’s mock disasters will be taking place in Grinnell, Knoxville and Cedar Rapids.
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