Garfield County PHED Ex drill

Garfield County practices Public Health emergency response procedures in a statewide health crisis drill

June 13, 2017

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – Garfield County emergency planners, responders and volunteers will practice Public Health emergency response procedures in a statewide health crisis exercise June 15-16. Garfield County Public Health will participate in a two-day full-scale Public Health Emergency Dispensing exercise to test the community’s response procedures during a health crisis, while counties statewide will do the same. The county invites community members to volunteer to help the exercise simulate how residents might respond in a true health emergency.

The event may cause excess traffic and potential delays in Rifle on Railroad Avenue near the Garfield County Fairgrounds on Friday, June 16. Affected will be limited to Howard Avenue and Railroad Avenue near the fairgrounds from approximately noon to 2 pm.

Local agencies have customized the exercise to focus on specific strengths and potential gaps prioritized by the community and the state. Participants will use response plans to practice emergency processes and help identify training needs, best practices and areas for emergency preparedness improvement.

This exercise will engage partners in responding to a hypothetical disease outbreak and will specifically test:

  • Resource distribution and dispensing
  • Information sharing
  • The ability to coordinate among multiple emergency operations centers

Exercises create a safe place for individual agencies to practice and integrate their current plans with the state’s response system, and to test how effective the collective response to a health threat will be. As partners participate together, community networks may strengthen and new resources may be discovered for health response to disasters and day-to-day operations.

To volunteer to take part in the exercise, please come to the Garfield County Fairgrounds, 1001 Railroad Avenue in Rifle, on Friday June 16 from 12 pm to 2 pm. Volunteers will queue in line to complete mock medical screening paperwork, talk to medical screeners, receive pretend medications, and exit the site.

“Volunteers from the community can also help us by driving through the fairgrounds where we will practice dispensing medication,” said Anna Cochran, Environmental Health Specialist with Garfield County Public Health. Volunteers can enter the site by car from Railroad Avenue for a drive-thru option or park at 195 W. 14th Street, and walk to the North Hall area at the fairgrounds.

Volunteers will not be asked to provide real medical information, and they will not receive real medications. “Everything will be a simulation, but this will give our local public health and emergency response team a chance to practice what it would look like to respond to a large-scale public health emergency,” said Cochran.

“If there were to be an emergency such as an anthrax release or pandemic influenza, Garfield County would collaborate with local, state, and federal partners and activate a Strategic National Stockpile plan. This plan allows us to receive life-saving medications to dispense to the public,” she continued.

PHED Ex is the last event of a three-part exercise series that began in 2015. Garfield County Public Health began preparing for the exercise a year in advance. “Public Health and hospitals statewide will practice ordering and receiving medical supplies from federal stockpiles. These stockpiles are designed to ensure that medicine and supplies would be available when needed in the event of a public health emergency,” said Cochrane. During the drill, medical supplies and empty pill bottles from the Strategic National Stockpile will be flown into the region by airplane and delivered by trucks.