On Saturday, Oct. 21, the county’s Health Department will turn a local high school into an emergency response site.
Should a bioterrorism event or epidemic occur, the Health Department might need to open shelter for residents to receive vaccinations and medication. In preparation for a possible disaster, the department will hold CodeFlu 06, an emergency preparedness exercise at Heritage High School in Leesburg. The school’s auditorium will be transformed into an emergency mass vaccination and medication-dispensing site.
AFTER 9-11, the Virginia Department of Health encouraged local health departments to improve their emergency plans. In response, the county’s Health Department revised its plans and puts them into action through emergency preparedness exercises.
Last year, the department and Loudoun Medical Reserve Corps transformed Potomac Falls High School in Sterling, into an emergency evacuation site, where they dispensed faux-antibiotics.
“At that point, we didn’t have a plan,” Dr. David Goodfriend, Health Department director, said.
After the exercise, Goodfriend and his team were able to devise a course of action to better protect the community. The Health Department, county government officials, the Sheriff’s Office and other local agencies held several meetings to devise a plan, delegate responsibilities and educate the community through the Pandemic Flu Health Summit, a series of public meetings held throughout the county.
The Health Department will test the plan for the first time at CodeFlu 06.
IN ORDER for the exercise to be effective, Goodfriend said they need a large number of volunteers to spend at least three hours playing the role of patients. He is hoping to get at least 1,000 volunteers.
“The more [volunteers] the better,” the director said.
The Loudoun County Health Department, Loudoun Medical Reserve Corps and county partners will practice dispensing medication to a large number of people in a short amount of time.
“The exercise forces us to see how multiple agencies work together under an emergency situation,” Goodfriend said.
It is also important to involve the community, Goodfriend said, so they too, are better prepared in an emergency.
Residents can register ahead of time online, www.loudoun.gov/health/volunteer.htm, or sign up at the event.
There are a few additional perks for volunteers, Goodfriend said.
The Health Department will offer flu shots to adults as long as supplies last, at the event. All volunteers will receive a pandemic influenza infection control kit, and Goodfriend will offer community service hours to all students.
“At the end of the day, everyone will get a thank-you gift from the department,” Goodfriend said. “They will be better prepared in an emergency.”
ROBERT MAUSKAPF, planner for the Virginia Department of Health, described Loudoun as a “model” county.
The state Health Department requires each health district to conduct at least one emergency exercise per year.
CodeFlu 06 runs in conjunction with the Virginia Pandemic Flu Summit, set up to inform community partners about the pandemic influenza plans at the national and state level and to foster planning at the community level.
Mauskapf considers Loudoun a model because of its emergency preparedness exercises.
CodeFlu 06 not only involved community members, but neighbor organizations like the Prince William County Health Department.
“Hats off to Loudoun,” Mauskapf said.
IN ADDITION TO the Health Department exercise, the Loudoun Crime Commission will hold an informative luncheon Friday, Oct. 20.
Colin Bradley, executive assistant for the Loudoun Crime Commission, said former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) will talk about emergency preparedness at the Holiday Inn in Leesburg.
The governor’s speech, “America’s Challenge: Security and Freedom,” will focus on how to prepare the community for the first 72 hours after a disaster occurs.
“This is a critical time, before the federal government has a chance to mobilize,” Bradley said.
Tickets are $5 for members, $10 for nonmembers. Call Bradley at 703-729-9277 to RSVP.