Friday, May 23, 2008

Fairfax County Medical Reserve Corps Exercise In The News

May 19 , 2008
County Conducts Disaster Training
By Leslie Perales Observer Staff Writer

Employees from the Fairfax County Health Department and volunteers with the Medical Reserve Corps completed a training session on mass medical dispensing Saturday morning. The event at Buzz Aldrin Elementary School in Reston provided volunteers with realistic training to prepare them to distribute medication on a large scale during a public health emergency.

"Hopefully we'll never have to do this, but to have a structure in place, a place for volunteers to go, is just proper planning," said Mike Andrews, public safety information officer for Fairfax County.

During the training, attendees learned how to organize and run a Quick Distribution Center, which is a space where antibiotics or other medications would be provided to thousands of people in a very short time.

"What we're doing here is training the people who would be leading the QDCs and volunteers," Andrews said. "Each member has an opportunity to become familiar with each station."

The Medical Reserve Corps would respond to events such as bioterrorism or widespread epidemics, and the group of volunteers would help set up and lead QDCs. About 138 QDCs would be set up throughout the county at area elementary schools in the event of such an emergency.

Volunteers learned how to complete the medication distribution forms and verify the information on that document, as well as how to dispense the medication quickly and efficiently.

"The form is intended to be used by non-medical people," said Steve Church, senior emergency planner for the Office of Emergency Management for Fairfax County. Church said because of how the QDCs are organized, Medical Reserve Corps and other volunteers do not need medical experience.

Saturday's exercise prepared volunteers for an anthrax attack in which two types of antibiotics (doxycycline and ciprofloxacin) would be distributed. Volunteers learned that people who were not able to take those medications would be directed to the health department or their personal physician.

Because the objective of a QDC is to distribute medication as quickly as possible, volunteers are instructed not to provide any medical advice other than the requirements for taking the drugs that are being provided, Andrews said.

In the event of an emergency, the public would be notified through the media to have the head of the household walk to their nearest elementary school to pick up medications for up to 10 people, Church said. Those picking up medications would need to know the medical history of everyone for whom they are getting medications, he said. A mobile unit would serve county residents who live more than one mile from an elementary school.

Wes McDermott, emergency preparedness coordinator for the Fairfax County Health Department, led an evaluation of the training at the end of the event, and he said, "We're very pleased with the way things went." He said the health department staff and Medical Reserve Corps volunteers worked well together. "These folks are part of a growing group of pre-trained, knowledgeable community members," McDermott said.

Andrews said they hope to have about 2,000 people trained as leaders by next year, but in an actual emergency more than 10,000 additional volunteers would be needed to help at each of the medical dispensing sites. Visit or call 703-246-2433.

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