Mercer, Princeton team up for public health emergency exercise
TRENTON, N.J.—It takes planning and coordination to be able to distribute medication to a large number of people in a short amount of time, which could be necessary in the event of a public health emergency. To test their level of preparedness, the Mercer County Division of Public Health collaborated with the Princeton Health Department to plan and conduct an exercise at the Princeton Senior Resource Center.
The two agencies simulated a response to an anthrax attack by establishing a point of distribution (POD) site where the antibiotics ciprofloxacin and doxycycline could be distributed to first-responder agencies and Princeton residents. PODs are opened when a portion of the population is determined to be at great risk of contracting a disease, including after exposure to a biological agent.
“This exercise demonstrated how agencies from two jurisdictions can work in partnership to prepare for and respond to a public health crisis,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. “It also provided a valuable learning experience for our student volunteers, whose Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) training is an important element of the county’s overall emergency preparedness.”
During the Dec. 8 exercise, the 36 public health and nursing students at The College of New Jersey who are enrolled in the county’s MRC program assisted by distributing “antibiotics” as well as by portraying community residents registering for and receiving the medication. MRC volunteers supplement existing emergency and public health resources in preparing for and responding to emergencies at the local level. At the conclusion of the exercise, health officials held a “hotwash” where they reviewed the event with the students and discussed its strengths and weaknesses in order to boost future response.
Mr. Hughes said citizens can prepare for a real public health emergency by asking their doctor if they can take the antibiotics doxycycline or ciprofloxacin, given any allergies to the medications or medication interactions; creating an emergency plan; and talking with their friends and neighbors about their emergency plans.
For more information about the MRC or to volunteer, contact Stephanie Mendelsohn at 609-989-6898 or visit www.mercercounty.org/health.
Caption 1: “Antibiotics” are distributed to Medical Reserve Corps volunteers representing community residents during an exercise conducted by the Mercer County Division of Public Health and the Princeton Health Department.
Caption 2: Health officials hold a “hotwash” with student volunteers in the Medical Reserve Corps following an exercise at the Princeton Senior Resource Center.