Disaster prep targets Bertie

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2008

WINDSOR – Albemarle Regional Health Services (ARHS) is working to prepare for a disaster in its seven-county coverage area.

Wednesday afternoon, the planning for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) came to Bertie County where ARHS Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Ashley Stoop led a meeting to determine how to meet needs in the county.

“We are putting together a plan for the entire region,” Stoop said. “Today we are going to look at the specifics for Bertie County.”

The Strategic National Stockpile is a national repository of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. The program came into existence in 1999 through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The SNS will be used following a public health emergency such as a terrorist attack, flu outbreak or hurricane when local supplies are expected to run out.

“We will prepare for all of the events, but the worst-case scenario that we are gearing up for is an aerosolized anthrax attack,” Stoop said.

The Stockpile begins with local officials determining a need. A request for the medical supplies is made through Emergency Management. If the incident is county-specific, the county that is involved will make the request. If it is a regional need, Pasquotank County Emergency Management will be the responsible agency.

Once the medications are received, they are broken down and shipped to the points of dispensation. They medications are then supplied to the public.

“In the event of a mass anthrax attack, for example, there would be one public (dispensation) site in each county,” Stoop said. “If the incident was county-specific, there would be the possibility of opening more than one site.”

Bertie County officials chose four sites in the county to be submitted for a checklist from the SNS. They included C.G. White Preschool and More at Four Center in Powellsville, West Bertie Elementary School near Kelford, Windsor Elementary School and the Bertie County Office on Aging in Windsor.

Stoop said the schools were a great location because they are familiar to the community, provide a pool for volunteers who know the community and provide the type of setup which would be suitable for dispensing the medication.

The county is also looking for closed sites. The closed sites are private entities which would distribute medications to their employees and the families of those employees. Thus far Bertie Memorial Hospital has signed on as a closed site in Bertie County. Perdue of Lewiston Woodville is also considering agreeing to be a closed site.

The closed sites are critical, according to Bertie County Emergency Management Director Rickey Freeman.

“Bertie County is huge and the population is scattered,” Freeman said. “The more closed sites we have the more it would help take people away from the open site and alleviate the burden there.”

In addition to Bertie Memorial and Perdue, Freeman said he was working with a few other businesses in Bertie County who could dispense medication to a few hundred people.

One key for the dispensation of medical supplies will be to have volunteers who will help ARHS at the sites.

“Obviously the more volunteers we have, the better things will go,” Stoop said.

She also said there were benefits to being a volunteer.

“Obviously, the first people to receive the medication will be the volunteers and their families,” Stoop said. “We can’t expect people to come out and volunteer until they know their family is safe.”

Freeman said he believed that would be an incentive to help recruit volunteers.

Those wishing to volunteer for the Strategic National Stockpile can contact Stoop at 252-337-6716.