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Westport plays role in statewide emergency-medical drill

Published 8:01 am, Friday, April 25, 2014

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  • Brie Garrison, program administrator for the Westport-Weston Health District, left, and Monica Wheeler, the district's director of community health, medical supplies delivered Thursday at Bedford Middle School as part of a statewide preparedness drill. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News
    Brie Garrison, program administrator for the Westport-Weston Health District, left, and Monica Wheeler, the district's director of community health, medical supplies delivered Thursday at Bedford Middle School as part of a statewide preparedness drill. Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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It may have looked like a typical rental truck making a delivery to Bedford Middle School on Thursday afternoon, but this was part of a test aimed at saving lives in the case of an emergency.

The state Department of Public Health staged a statewide preparedness exercise to test emergency-services personnel's ability to distribute medical supplies from the federal Strategic National Stockpile.

"The Strategic National Stockpile disaster exercise is specifically designed for us to test the process by which we have the ability to deliver medications or medical equipment in the event our levels of supplies are low or overwhelmed in a catastrophic emergency, such as a pandemic or terrorist attack," said Jonathan Best, the agency's director of public health preparedness and response.

For the Westport-Weston Health District, the drill provided an opportunity to take delivery of useful materials, including gloves, face masks and stretch net dressings.

It also helped the local district measure its ability to distribute emergency supplies to Westport, Weston and Wilton in the event of an actual disaster.

"Literally we're the first state ever to have deliveries in a full-scale exercise," said Mike Vincelli, director of emergency preparedness response for the WWHD. The exercise, managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, involved the states hospitals and mass-dispensing sites, of which Bedford Middle School is one.

"God forbid if we have to get pills into people or vaccines into people, they split it up into roughly areas of 50,000 people or so," he said, with the immediate three-town district one of 41 throughout the state.

"In this particular drill all we're literally doing is just receiving that one pallet," Vinelli said of the supples delivered Thursday, while in a real emergency about seven would be delivered.

"We used to prepare for smallpox years ago," explained Monica Wheeler, the WWHD director of community health. "We've done a number of things over the years."

Brie Garrison, the district's program administrator, added that the district is involved with a range of preparations designed to protect the public.

"I would say the vast majority of the public doesn't know what's done to prepare for emergencies," she said.