Oxford hosts emergency training

Scores of emergency management personnel from schools, local governments and businesses studied on Tuesday how to help their entities become part of the solution in case of a health-related public crisis.

The State Department of Health held training for Closed Point of Dispensing (POD) sites in North Mississippi at Oxford Conference Center.

“This is part of our Strategic Stockpile Training that we do annually with our closed PODs,” said Tammy Chamblee, a registered nurse and public health trainer. “A POD is a location where medications or vaccinations are dispensed in case of public emergency.” One scenario, she said, would be the dispensing of strong antibiotics in the case of anthrax making its way into the population.

“In Mississippi, we have plans in place already to be able to medicate the entire population within 48 hours,” she said. “We have two choices for getting the pills into people: An open POD site is a public POD. Every county in Mississippi has locations already named and planning that is occurring for that process to occur. The other site is a closed POD. These are agreements that we have with facilities such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, private industries, colleges. We are training them … on how best to implement the plan.

“This isn’t the only training they have access to, but this is the face-to-face training we offer annually for the northern third of the state,” Chamblee said. “They will have a better understanding of how to go back to their facility, work with their staff and figure out the best plan for their facility that will enable them to get the pills into their people.”

Laveta Thomas, State Medical Reserve Coordinator, said another subject touched on in Tuesday’s training was the Mississippi Responder Management System, which helps identify, credential and efficiently manage Medical Reserve Corps members and other trained volunteers who show up during crises involving mass injuries or disease.

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11/01, she said, thousands of volunteers showed up to help.

“Many of them were health professionals, but there was no way to credential them, no way to ID them, no proof that they were who they said they were, so they couldn’t be used, and they couldn’t be managed,” Thomas said. “Because of that, President Bush decided there needed to be some way to quickly identify these people and credential them and some way to manage them. The Medical Reserve Corps came out of that. It is housed in the Office of the Surgeon General; it is part of the Freedom Corps.

Mississippi has some 1,500 Medical Reserve Corps members in seven units – statewide veterinary, mental health and radiation response units, along with regional units in DeSoto County, Oxford, Jackson and the Gulf Coast.

Part of Thomas’ job is also to facilitate new Medical Reserve Corps volunteers and units.

“The Medical Reserve Corps people are highly trained people who supplement the first responders,” she said. “Mississippi needs volunteers – not just medical professionals. At a closed POD, for instance, non-medical people can serve as greeters or runners inside the POD. They are there to assist the medical people as drivers, electricians, other skilled positions. Anybody who can volunteer time and skills and services in an emergency is needed.

“If there isn’t a unit nearby, an interested person could call me, and I could … help them establish one in their area,” Thomas said. “Everything starts at the local level, and all it takes is like-minded people who want to help.”

For more information, visit www.msdh.state.ms.us or www.medicalreservecorps.gov.


About Errol Castens

I'm a news reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal and the Oxford Citizen. Focusing on Oxford and Lafayette County, I've been a part of the L-O-U community since 1991.