HSE Runs Drill to Test County’s Emergency Plan (Video)

Fearing they had been exposed to anthrax, hundreds of people converged on Hamilton Southeastern High School Saturday eager to get ahold of antibiotics. Counselors and uniformed police officers were on hand to deal with the panicked crowd.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Cb99EotDed4" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]Fortunately, it was just a drill. Though there were a couple of mock fights and fainting spells, it was all part of a drill to test Hamilton County’s ability to handle a widespread emergency where medication and information needs to be distributed quickly.

“We had to test our plan to see if we can treat up to 2,000 people per hour,” said Richard Hogue, assistant superintendent for HSE Schools.

About 600 to 700 volunteers showed up, playing the part of Colts fans who had been exposed to airborne anthrax from a bioterrorist attack during the Colts’ inaugural game at the new Lucas Oil Stadium. They were told to go to either Brooks School or Lantern Road Elementary, where they were given information, including a video presentation on anthrax and the recommended treatment. They then boarded buses headed for HSE High, where they received the mock medicine.

This was the first drill of this magnitude in the state and one of the largest in the nation, Hogue said. The county has been working on a pandemic emergency plan for a year and a half and has been planning this drill for about six months, he said.

It took an average of about four minutes for “patients” to get off the bus, get their medication and return to the bus. Although there were a few logistical snags, the drill went fairly smoothly.

“It can’t be a failure,” said Jason Settles, who was observing the drill as part of the state Department of Health’s Bio-terror Division. “Even if something doesn’t go as smoothly as it could, we’re still going to learn something.”
Most volunteers were members of the HSE community, including several students, who received credit for their community service requirement by participating in the drill. Juniors Parker Stancato and Tyler Derr staged a mock fight during a PowerPoint presentation and had to be “restrained” by police officers. Junior Brett Williams, pretending to be pregnant, had an anxiety attack and a fainting spell for the medical staff to deal with. It was all planned to help emergency workers prepare for the unexpected events that can arise during a crisis.

“It’s kind of like a sports team practicing for the big game,” Settles said. “In our case, we hope the big game never comes.”

Most of those involved with Saturday’s drill were volunteers, and area businesses also helped offset costs with donations. Sam’s Club gave more than $1,300, according to Kim Nicholson, who works at Sam’s and has children in the HSE school system. She acted as a mother who needed help locating her lost children.

Hogue said the drill showed the county is prepared to handle a large crowd in the event of an actual emergency. Officials plan to run another drill in the future to test procedures for a communicable disease such as avian flu. In that case, people would be kept isolated from one another, using a drive-through process for dispensing medication.
“This is the first part of our plan,” Hogue said. “Different situations would require different strategies.”

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