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FOR RELEASE: June 28, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State Department of Health Bioterrorism Exercise Scheduled July 12-14
Public Encouraged to Participate

As part of a large-scale effort to test emergency response systems in a public health catastrophic event, the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced today that a bioterrorism exercise simulating a terrorist release of plague will be held in three Oklahoma counties next month. The exercise, called Operation Firework Fanfare, is one of the most ambitious and complex exercises of its kind ever held in Oklahoma.

The exercise, scheduled July 12-14, will be a realistic simulation designed to challenge the state’s response to a catastrophic health emergency. This simulated event would result in pneumonic plague, a disease that can be transmitted person to person, in addition to those originally exposed. Such an attack would require a massive coordinated response to deliver antibiotics to affected persons in the three counties participating in the exercise: Comanche, Oklahoma and Tulsa.

A key component of the exercise will be demonstrating the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s ability to request, receive and distribute emergency supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. The Strategic National Stockpile can deliver medicine, vaccine and antidotes within 12 hours and is maintained by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a constant state of readiness to respond to a public health emergency. On July 12 and 13, the exercise will focus on the identification of the biologic agent and emergency procedures necessary to request, receive and distribute supplies from the stockpile to appropriate areas within the state.

On July 14, Oklahoma, Tulsa and Comanche counties will operate countywide medication dispensing sites to simulate dispensing antibiotics from the stockpile to mass populations who might be at risk of acquiring pneumonic plague.

“Operation Firework Fanfare will demonstrate what we have accomplished in preparing to respond to a serious public health threat as well as identifying areas for future improvement,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mike Crutcher. “In addition, the exercise will demonstrate the close working relationship between branches of federal, state and local governments and local first responders in preparing for a bioterrorist attack.”

To help make the exercise more realistic, state health officials are asking Oklahomans to volunteer July 14 as mock “patients” for the exercise by simulating the types of crowds at medication dispensing sites that might occur in a real public health emergency. People interested in participating are encouraged to contact the local health departments in Comanche, Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.

State partners in the exercise include the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. County health departments participating include the Comanche County Health Department, the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, and the Tulsa City-County Health Department.

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