Bioterror drill will test how to use emergency volunteers

Friday, October 28, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:32 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In case of bioterror attack, be prepared.

That’s the goal of the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, which will conduct an exercise Wednesday morning to test how best to use volunteers in a public health emergency. The exercise will last from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Fairview United Methodist Church, 3200 Chapel Hill Road. The Voluntary Action Center and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program are partners in the endeavor, and they’re hoping to recruit as many volunteers as possible.

“We are not looking for a set number of volunteers,” health department spokeswoman Heather Baer said. “The more volunteers, the better.”

If a bioterror attack or an outbreak of disease were to occur, health officials would establish a site to distribute medicine to the community. Volunteers for next week’s exercise will be screened and placed at different stations during the exercise with the help of the Medical Reserve Corps.

“Basically, we’re going to be simulating as if an emergency had occurred,” Baer said. “We will be setting up a reception center, then volunteers will report to a staging area where we’ll figure out their skills and give them orders as to where they need to go.”

The exercise is intended to work out a systematic way of dealing with volunteers once they arrive at a medical dispensing site; no one will be sent to another location during the event.

Volunteers both with and without a medical backgrounds are needed.

“People with a medical background can obviously do things that people without a medical license can’t,” Baer said. “Placement also depends on other skills and what they’re physically able to do. We’re trying to get people placed as correctly and efficiently as possible.”

Julie O’Reilly-Chapman of RSVP said that agency has invited its Seniors With Available Time, or SWAT, group to participate.

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