The City of New York is looking for at least a few hundred more good men (and women) to be “Fake Patients” in a “Point of Dispensing (POD) Emergency Response Exercise” on Saturday afternoon. Officials say the drill will help in the planning for both a possible anthrax attack as well as the possible return of H1N1 in the Fall. This is also a rare opportunity for average citizens to take part in this type of emergency exercise and be part of the government’s preparedness effort for both the pandemic flu or a future terror incident.
The City has currently signed up 500 “patients” so far, according to Anne Rinchiuso from the Health Department’s Bureau of Emergency Management, but she says they could use up to 2000 volunteers. “The more people in the drill the more practice and data we get.” During the drill, the volunteer patients will go through a POD, a mass dispensing site opened for the distribution of antibiotics or other medications in response to a public health emergency or outbreak.
Rinchiuso says the exercise was designed a year ago specifically for an anthrax response. However, it will also provide lessons for officials in case there is a need for a mass H1N1 vaccination program this Fall.
If you are interested in participating on Saturday, go to the Health Department’s Exercise website at www.nyc.gov/health/podexercise to fill out the short registration form. The drill will take place at a school on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and will runÂ from approximately 1-5 pm. ItÂ is open to New Yorkers over 18 years old. More information will be provided once you register.
Although CERT team members are often asked to participate in emergency responder drills (and are doing so again on Saturday), this exercise is open to all New Yorkers.Â Rinchiuso notes that this an opportunity for individual members of the public to play a very helpful role in the City’s emergency preparedness planning. (On a personal note, I have participated in a number of these drills. I — and I think most of the other participants — have found them interesting, community-building and even fun events. You really do feel as if you are helping out your city in an unusual but important way. And maybe you’ll even make some new friends on the line for ‘medicine’.)