Friday, December 7, 2007
BOH holds MRC training
What role would Carlisle's Board of Health (BOH) play if a pandemic struck the state? On Thursday, November 29, town residents were given the opportunity to learn about BOH plans for a dispensing site in the Corey Building at the Carlisle School in case emergency town-wide vaccination or medical treatment is ever needed.
The goal is to be able to vaccinate 80% of the population within two days and all town residents within three days. The BOH would like to handle about 180 vaccinations per hour, day and night. In contrast, the town's annual flu clinic on November 30 served about 50 per hour over two hours.
So far the BOH has signed up three dozen volunteers to help through the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) program, but many more are needed, according to BOH agent Linda Fantasia, who estimates that about 70 volunteers would be helpful for each planned 12-hour shift. Many non-medical volunteers are needed to help with tasks such as traffic flow, communication, registration and clerical work. Other support jobs may involve child care, food or transportation. According to Fantasia, four times more non-medical personnel are needed at an emergency dispensing site than health professionals.
Medical Reserve Corps
The MRC was developed in response to the events of September 11, 2001, and is coordinated by the Office of the Surgeon General. According to the web site, www.medicalreservecorps.gov, the program has 145,000 volunteers nationally in over 700 MRC units who assist public health and safety professionals during emergencies.
Carlisle voted to create a local MRC in 2006, and at that time joined 33 other towns in the Massachusetts Emergency Preparedness Region 4A to share planning information and resources.
Regional Preparedness Coordinator Archana Joshi and Deputy Coordinator Sarah Robart attended Carlisle's meeting last week, as did Judith Chevarley, regional health educator and epidemiologist with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. After BOH Chair Jeff Brem welcomed the group of about 15 residents and three police officers, Chevarley led a training exercise. Participants learned about the organization and different tasks involved in staffing an emergency clinic, and were asked to envision ways to handle large numbers of people, some of whom may be upset, or may not speak English, or may have physical disabilities or other health issues.
Planning in progress
Many details have yet to be solved for how to quickly process four or five thousand people during a pandemic without overwhelming the capacity of the building. What is the best way to set up the dispensing site to maximize order and efficiency? The layout continues to evolve, but the current plan will have people who come to a dispensing site at the Corey Building enter at the lower level and wait in the basement hallways before registering in the exercise room and then proceeding into the gym for vaccination.
How many people will fit in the Corey Building? The BOH hopes to devise a way to stagger arrivals, perhaps by scheduling timeslots by neighborhood. In order to achieve this, there must be a way to communicate scheduling information to residents during an emergency. Suggestions for notification included posting it on TV, or the town web site. Another idea was an automatic system similar to the one owned by the Carlisle School to phone parents in the case of an emergency early release. Fantasia explained that the school's database would not be usable for a town-wide alert, and said that it would cost about $5,000 to purchase another notification system such as Connect CTY.
If there were no electricity, Selectman Tim Hult suggested tht emergency communication might be provided by using about a dozen satellite radios distributed throughout town to designated residents who would then spread the message through organized neighborhood networks. Messages might also be spread by police cruisers driving through town.
Another unsolved question is how a dispensing clinic would operate if the school lost electricity, since it lacks a backup generator and some medicines spoil if not stored under the proper temperature (see editorial).
While planning is still in the early stages and many challenges exist, the BOH feels that training volunteers through the MRC program will help strengthen Carlisle's ability to help its citizens in the event of a pandemic or similar town-wide emergency.
The Carlisle MRC is looking for volunteers to serve on an executive committee that will help set goals and plan the dispensing site logistics. The first meeting of the committee is scheduled for January 23
© 2007 The