Health officials to test terrorism response

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:46

    WEST MILFORD-The health department here is seeking some 80 volunteers with specialized skills to take part in Passaic County's second bio-terrorism preparedness training drill to be held April 6. The first drill, held Oct. 2 in Paterson, tested the county's practices and its ability to process victims in an urban setting. Dubbed "Scarlet Pestilence," that drill tested the "Point of Dispensing" (P.O.D.) concept. New Jersey has 12 P.O.D.s according to James S. Blumenstock, New Jersey's deputy commissioner for public health protection and emergency preparedness. Passaic County will test one of the P.O.D.s on April 6 at Lakeland Regional High School, according to West Milford's Public Health Officer, Ken Hawkswell. That drill will test capabilities of personnel in the Northwest portion of Passaic County, including West Milford, Ringwood and Wanaque, and will require some 80 people to staff the P.O.D., according to Hawkswell. An additional drill will be held April 7 in Paterson. The federal government provides the vaccine, administration supplies, written directions, video demonstrations, the necessary forms and specific information related to the medications. Each municipality must provide its share of personnel," according to Bobbie Del Sol, the public health nurse supervisor here. "People with expertise in the following areas are especially needed, including nurses, triage workers, emergency medical technicians, referral personnel, medical screeners, translators, vaccinators, clinic managers, physician evaluators, medical record data entry personnel, supply managers, and security and traffic control personnel. "Even if you have no experience in First Aid, medicine or as a first-responder, you can still be a volunteer. Additional positions include: Reception, outside and Inside Debriefing Outside and Inside Sick Bay workers, and people with the ability to make sound and quick assessments and decisions, for triage work. "This is part of a weeklong nationwide drill," said Hawkswell. "This one's going to be a pneumonic plague situation," he added. Pneumonic plague also was the scenario for the Oct. 2 drill in Paterson. Then, the scenario outline called for numerous patients in Warren and Monmouth Counties, as well as in Paterson, here in Passaic County. The victims, and a total of 7,000 others, became infected while attending a sporting event at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. As the scenario played out, some 3,000 suspected cases were treated in the first 24 hours, with 200 fatalities. Human nature is such that people tend to think such disasters only happen elsewhere. Not so. "We are rich in high value targets," said Dr. Clifton R. Lacy, at the Oct. 2 drill. Lacy was then the state Health Commissioner. Potential targets include, but aren't limited to the pharmaceutical industry, the financial industry, truck and railroad transportation, Newark International Airport, and military bases including Navy Weapons Station-Earle, in Colts Neck, straddling busy Route 18, and Picatinny Arsenal in Jefferson which bills itself as the "Home of American Firepower." During the Paterson drill Lacy asserted, "New Jersey has a long history of deliberate and accidental health threats." He cited the anthrax attacks after 9-11 and a September case of Lassa fever diagnosed in a returning visitor to Africa. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), based in Atlanta, Lassa fever takes 1-3 weeks to manifest itself after exposure, and has a 20-percent mortality rate.