A half-dozen Iowa counties are taking part in an emergency preparedness drill this week, which today includes a full-scale exercise involving law enforcement officers, paramedics teams and hospital staffs. Denise Coder, community health coordinator at Cass County Memorial Hospital in Atlantic, says the drill revolves around a fictitious pandemic, or a fast-breaking disease outbreak.
Coder says there’s practicing a response to pandemic influenza, likely avian influenza, which she says "is very real for us." Students from Atlantic and Walnut High School as well as more than 100 volunteers will play the role of victims of the outbreak and those who assist emergency response personnel. Coder says the exercise encompasses a host of people. She says it includes: law enforcement, EMS, veterinarians, schools and a wide variety of others.
Coder says it’s important for so many people to play a role in the drill because they’ll likely be needed when and if the real thing ever strikes. She says it’s a community response and that’s what it will take in a pandemic as you won’t be able to count on the federal or state government to help — the response will have to be from the local level.
Coder says it’s especially important for the students to participate in the exercise, because they face a very real potential for a world-wide pandemic to occur during their lifetimes. Funding for the exercise is being provided, in part, by the Centers for Disease Control. Coder says ever since 9-11, there has been an influx of resources from the federal government to the local level.
She says the emergency response drill winds down Thursday with a "tabletop deactivation phase," and concludes Friday with a statewide critique of how the plans were executed, and what areas need to be improved upon during a future response. The other counties involved in the drill are: Chickasaw, Clay, Dallas, Dubuque and Wayne.