Public Health conducts bio-terrorism attack drill in Alhambra

What do we do in the event of a bio-terrorism attack? This question served as the basis for a drill that took place at Almansor Park on Thursday. The drill, which was held by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health, focused on dispensing life-saving medicines to victims.

“In the event of a wide-spread public health disaster, either natural or man-made, Pubic Health may need to dispense medication to a large group of people quickly and effectively,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Interim Health Officer. Several departments joined this statewide exercise, including the Los Angeles County Department Of Public Health, Los Angeles Sheriff, the Alhambra Police Department, the City of Alhambra and several other agencies to prepare for a local emergency in the event of a bio-terrorism attack.

Volunteer Linda Tinajero inquires emergency staff

Around 150 volunteers participated in this exercise. Linda Tinajero of Alhambra was one of them. Her role was to play a patient who waits in the line for antibiotics distribution. Tinajero's step-by-step procedure in getting medicine was to sign up as a household first, fill a medical screening form, then meet with distributors and inquire for proper medicines. It was not a complicated process, but Tinajero is concerned about maintaining order in the event of an actual disaster. She notes that people may swarm the same spots, and staff members will be under more pressure. “It will be much more chaotic if something really happened,” said Tinajero.

The county officer said the purpose of the drill was not only to train the staff, but also to inform local communities on what to do. “In an actual disaster, it will also be every individual’s responsibility to be prepared and ready to care for themselves and their loved ones,” said Jeff Reeb, Director of the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management.

Volunteer Daniel Sanchez waits for medications

Daniel Sanchez, a nursing student at Azusa Pacific University, also volunteered at the exercise. While the drill was conducted in three major languagesEnglish, Spanish and Chinesehe still believes there should be improvements made in language services“A lot of emergency staff just spoke in English automatically. But in a real-life situation, it will be different languages among different age groups," said Sanchez. He also suggests setting up a designated emergency care area for people who have suffered other forms of injuries, "just in case someone had passed out from a stroke or other emergency happens within the site," he said.

The sign of the drill in three languages

Officers said that, aside from dispensing medicine on-site, they also have emergency response plans for people with special needs. “We have special cache and medications to deliver to people with disabilities and other special needs who can’t come here,” said Gunzenhauser. He added that identifying these groups of people could be challenging, since they can't track all of them. “One of the important things is that we need the community to help us identify those people,” he said.

This exercise is one part of a weeklong emergency response simulation on how the State, county and local partners would respond to a regional release of hazardous materials affecting the general public, which could be man-made or caused by natural disasters.  The entire exercise is from November 16-20, 2015. The Alhambra drill was scheduled prior to the Paris terror attacks, Los Angeles Daily News reported.

For more information about how to prepare for a bio-attack, visit: www.espfocus.org

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