There is a saying that every disaster not only begins, but ends locally. Local first responders have always recognized this and train constantly to be as prepared as possible. With the events of 9/11 came the call for even better training from the local to the federal level. New departments and systems have been put in place or upgraded, such as Homeland Defense and the CDC. These agencies provide guidance and resources to allow local responders to plan trainings and preparedness exercises to ensure local responders are as prepared as possible. To prepare for the trainings and exercises, scenarios are developed. Scenarios are fictional events developed by authorities to provide background information and to provide a way to evaluate the exercise. The information gathered is constantly used to improve local planning.
On occasion, federal or state governments require mandated exercises at the local level to ensure preparedness. Once such current requirement is the exercising of a local area’s dispensing plan for their residents. Each area has a plan in place that details how treatment would be provided to local residents for a variety of potential exposures, both natural and man-made. The plan is referred to as a Point Of Dispensing Plan. The federal government notified all state authorities that every county must exercise their Point Of Dispensing Plan by May 31, 2016. In order to meet this requirement, Sampson County performed their exercise on July 10, 2014.
The scenario for the exercise was a fictional event - the contamination of the county’s water supply - which required the provision of antibiotics to county residents. The exercise involved over 200 participants from multiple agencies to that included Emergency Management, Emergency Medical Services, Clinton City Police Department, Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, Sampson Regional Medical Center, Clinton City Schools, Sampson County Schools and Sampson County Health Department.
The agencies opened a Point of Dispensing facility and provided treatment to residents. Volunteers served as “residents” and were given a variety of acting assignments of potential real-life situations that could occur in a real-life event. These situations allowed responders the opportunity to respond to a variety of factors that could occur in reality.
After the exercise, a “Hot Wash” or debriefing was held that allowed participants to provide feedback immediately after the event. The information provided included not only the plan’s strengths, but its weaknesses and needed improvements. The information will be used to revise Sampson County’s Point of Dispensing Plan to ensure first responders are as prepared as possible to assist our citizens.