Sunday, February 25, 2024

DOH launches statewide plague emergency response drill this week

OCPH will play a minimal role


OKANOGAN – As you are reading this, the Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH) is coordinating a five-day statewide emergency drill to test health agency responses to a simulated plague outbreak. The exercise involves the distribution of more than a million doses of faux vaccine and other supplies to the state’s 35 health departments and districts utilizing air and ground logistics in a full-scale Transportation Relay Exercise (T-REX) to disperse the medications within 48 hours.

The exercise began on Monday, May 6, when a truck pulled into the WSFOH at Tumwater with a load of faux emergency vaccines and supplies from the federal Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). Those medical supplies were repackaged by emergency response staffers for redistribution to state, county and tribal locations including pharmacies, health care centers and related participants throughout the state.

“The scenario used in this exercise is a simulated outbreak of plague,” a May 2 DOH media release said. “While there are other more likely situations where distributing medicine or supplies would be necessary, the use of plague for the scenario tests many important elements of the federal, state and local emergency response plans.”

Where Okanogan County is concerned one of those “more likely situations” is wildfire. Lauri Jones, co-administrator and community health director for Okanogan County Public Health (OCPH) said she is well-acquainted with the wildfire emergency response side of DOH mobilizations.

“We have taken delivery of thousands and thousands of N-95 masks,” said Jones. “Last year we accepted a truckload delivery from DOH of about 40,000 masks.”

The masks were available at schools, health care centers, city halls, and other sites around the county to help residents deal with the air pollution effects of wildfire fire smoke.

“We have a really good distribution plan working with Okanogan County Emergency Management,” Jones said.
Jones said that while OCPH will play a minimal role in this week’s DOH rollout, her office is updating its emergency plan and preparing to receive SNS supplies.

Randy August, in charge of emergency planning for the Colville Tribal Office of Public Safety said that his department did participate in the DOH exercise on Monday, May 6, but declined to offer more details.

Randy Coffell, Human Resources Director in charge of emergency planning at Mid-Valley Hospital in Omak said that his advisory about this week’s plague response exercise said DOH will utilize the county public health district as its main point of contact.


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