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June 23, 2004

Oswego County Health Department Practices for Bio-terrorism Attack

Over 50 emergency workers from the Oswego County Health Department and other agencies are involved in a training exercise today to practice the health department's bio-terrorism response plan.

The exercise is designed to test the county's procedures for accepting smallpox vaccine, setting up a clinic, and vaccinating volunteer first responder medical personnel who would be called in to assist the health department in a major public health emergency. The drill scenario was developed by the O'Brien's Group of Houston, Texas.

"All local health departments in New York State are required to develop plans for responding to a bio-terrorism attack, and to show that they can operate an emergency vaccination clinic," said Oswego County Health Commissioner Kathleen Smith. "In a health-related emergency, we would have access to the Strategic National Stockpile of critical medical supplies. This exercise will focus on the logistics of receiving a supply of smallpox vaccine, keeping it in a secure area, and distributing it to emergency workers."

In addition to the Oswego County Health Department, representatives from several county, state and federal agencies are involved in Wednesday's training exercise. They include the Oswego County Sheriff's Department, Oswego County Emergency Management Office, Chairman of the County Legislature Russ Johnson, Oswego County Fire Coordinator, Oswego County E-911, Oswego County Department of Promotion and Tourism, Oswego City Police, New York State Police, New York State Department of Health, FBI, Oswego Hospital, and other organizations.

"Because we have three nuclear power plants in the county, Oswego County agencies are already well-versed in emergency planning procedures," said Legislature Chairman Russ Johnson. "This exercise is a good opportunity for us to build on our skills and apply them to a scenario involving a public health crisis."

The exercise will take place at the Nick Sterio Public Health Clinic, 70 Bunner St., Oswego. Agencies will also be involved at the county Emergency Operations Center in Fulton.

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