Mass Prophy exercise

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On Thursday March 19th, 2009, the Alameda County Public Health department hosted a mass prophy exercise. The mission of this exercise was to see how fast the San Francisco and Alameda county public health systems could distribute the life-saving medicines that would be needed if there was a pandemic or bio-terror event in the San Francisco bay area. Each department set up a Point of Dispensing (POD) site at the Oakland Colosseum.

There were several hundred persons divided into participants and actors. Participants are the persons from within a jurisdiction who would be required to manage a Mass Prophylaxis Program or staff a Mass Prophylaxis Clinic in response to a bioterrorist incident or other public health emergency in their community. They represent public health, health care services, law enforcement, emergency medical services, emergency planning, emergency communications, and volunteer management. Actors (such as myself) pretended to be citizens of the two counties.

The key differences between the two PODs were that San Francisco had no forms but many more stanchions and people directing the actors, while Alameda had the actors fill in family information forms, used laser scanners to read bar codes, but had substantially fewer directors.

For every person Alameda processed, San Francisco processed 4 or more. In a real situation forms would be required, so San Francisco ‘cheated’ on this part of the exercise. However, in my opinion, the key differentiator was the additional number of directors used by San Francisco.

There were plenty of open ‘forms check’ and dispensing stations in the Alameda POD but the actors (me included) were waiting in line for the first forms check station because no one told us that we could go to any station.

As I said, the mission of this exercise is to make the process better and I believe that this mission was accomplished. So would you volunteer to participate in an event like this in your local community? Let me know your thoughts.

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