FOR RELEASE: March 21, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
Sooner Spring Bioterrorism Media Advisory #3
Note to Editors: This is the third of a series of weekly media advisories on Sooner Spring.
“Sooner Spring,” is a series of bioterrorism exercises to be conducted on April 12-13 to give state and local community leaders and public health officials an opportunity to review key planning elements for dealing with bioterrorism within the state. According to officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), the goal of Sooner Spring is to enhance Oklahoma’s response if a real bioterrorism incident were to occur.
Tulsa, McAlester, Lawton and Oklahoma City are scheduled to host Sooner Spring activities. Each of these communities will conduct training exercises and demonstrations on different bioterrorism threats. The major objectives of these exercises are to help officials determine how best to keep the diseases from spreading, ensure effective medical treatment is available and to keep the public informed. Local community preparations thus far include the following activities:
- This past week the Tulsa City-County Health Department (TCCHD) met with First Responders including the Medical Emergency Operations Center, the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Medical Services Agency, the Medical Emergency Response Center, the fire and police departments, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, to map out strategies, and determine the roles of each participant for the simulated smallpox exercise.
- The Oklahoma City VA Medical Center confirmed their participation in the exercise and will assist the OSDH and CDC Smallpox Response Team by hosting an exercise which includes patient assessment and clinical sample collection techniques.
- In Lawton, local officials met with representatives from the four area hospitals and the fire and police officials and did a “table top” exercise to determine what each group would do and what they would need before they can respond appropriately, if they were faced with an outbreak of botulism. They also considered the concept of a medical emergency response center.
- The Corporation Commission will be looking at a scenario involving a utility infrastructure in Lawton and how it would respond to sustain or restore vital utilities if they are at risk.
- McAlester’s simulated biologic agent will be pneumonic plague. Staff from the Pittsburg County Health Department involved with Sooner Spring spent time this past week reviewing their particular tasks and determining what each one’s responsibilities would be for the upcoming exercise.
- Members of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, pharmaceutical stockpile staff, and state Civil Defense office will be on hand to observe dispensing medicines. The Pittsburg County Health Department will have teams to distribute mock antibiotics (jelly beans) at seven distribution sites. The teams at each site will consist of public health nurses, physicians, emergency personnel, security, interpreters, Red Cross volunteers and Mental Health volunteers. With the support of the Oklahoma Military Department, military helicopters will deliver boxed and containerized medical supplies to Lawton and McAlester on April 13.
- In Oklahoma City, ZymeTx, Inc. is adapting its influenza surveillance and reporting system to test its evolving capability of making automated alerts to the health department of unusual occurrences of diseases presenting as influenza-like illness.
“The public should remember that these are mock drills to assist the community in preparing for a potential bioterrorist attack,” said Dr. Robert Petrone, bioterrorism coordinator for the Oklahoma State Department of Health.