Simulated disaster drill conducted at CWC Monday tested Public Health Response to mock anthrax release
(Riverton) — A multi-purpose public health and campus safety drill was staged at Central Wyoming College’s main campus in Riverton Monday morning. The purpose of the drill was two-fold, according to officials. On the public health side, it was to practice a mass inoculation event using an incident command system and on the college side, it was to test CWC’s text, email and phone alert system.
“Sunday at 8 a.m. the staff of Fremont County Public Health was notified about this extensive drill via the Emergency Alert System requesting all county health personnel to report here this morning,” said Teresa Nirider, a public health nurse and the Public Information Officer for the drill. “We wanted to find out how many people would respond.”
Carolyn Aanestead, the PIO at the college, said all students and faculty were sent a message at 9:45 Monday morning asking them to report to the college’s gym immediately. “The faculty had advance notice so they would let their students go,” she said. “We wanted to test how long it took to get the campus mobilized and to the gym in the event of an actual emergency.”
The premise of Monday’s drill was a mock release of anthrax. The Fremont County Public Health Department’s mobile emergency response trailer, equipped with two fully equipped nursing stations, was put into action and various stations were set up inside the college’s gym where potential victims were screened and then directed to several medication dispensing stations.
The event was not open to the public, but the media was notified. “In the event of an actual emergency, the media would play a key role in directing people where staging areas were located and what they would need to do,” Nirider said. She said of the 12 media outlets invited, only three showed up, including County10.com.
Staffiing the event as part of their curriculum were two dozen CWC nursing students, from both Jackson and Riverton, plus Fremont County Public Health personnel. Local law enforcement provided security and traffic control.
CWC Nursing Coordinator Kathy Wells said the drill dovetailed on what the nursing students are now studying in their last semester before graduation. “We are studying how to manage emergencies in a hospital Emergency Room and also exposing the students to a public health emergency through the roles they are playing today,” Wells said.
Public Health Nursing Supervisor Julie Twist said the simulation is giving her department training on how an incident command structure works.
Nirider said stockpiles of antibiotics exist across Fremont County and the state for rapid response in the event of an emergency. “If we did not have sufficient “assets” here, then we would request them from the National Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta from the National Strategic Stockpile,” Nirider said.
“We decided we needed to do these drills based on the Swine Flu scare in 2010,” she said. “We realized that in a pandemic event, we would have to give out information and preventative medications in very short order, so these drills were organized. The County conducted a similar drill last summer on the Wind River Indian Reservation.