Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Mail Carrier Med Delivery Exercise Has 95% Success Rate
U.S. Postal Service workers were able to deliver empty tablet containers to roughly 95 percent of the homes included in a May biological attack response exercise in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported on Thursday (see GSN, July 11).
On May 6, participating mail distribution personnel dropped off the containers and informational brochures to some 33,000 residences around the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, according to an assessment of the bioresponse exercise issued in recent days by the Minnesota Health Department.
The exercise was part of a broader U.S. government effort to make ready for a feared bioterror attack that could involve weaponized anthrax, smallpox or other highly lethal disease agents. In the event of a such an attack, volunteer mail carriers would be mobilized to quickly deliver stockpiled medical countermeasures to residents in affected areas. The deliveries would complement distribution of countermeasures at fixed-location centers.
The Twin Cities drill was the first such large-scale antibiotic delivery exercise. Drills in other major U.S. cities are also scheduled.
Minnesota Health Department Emergency Preparedness Director Jane Braun said the May exercise involved 36 postal workers who were paired with 36 police officers to deliver the pill bottles.
Drop-offs were not made to 1,674 targeted residences due to the presence of threatening canines, unoccupied homes, mailboxes unsuitable for depositing the bottles, and the elapsing of time on the 12-hour exercise.
"Some of the [mail] routes were very large, and we were running up to the end of the time we had allocated," Braun said. "In a real situation we'd have as many shifts as we needed."
Twenty-three federal, state, and jurisdictional agencies and one community group took part in the drill.
The department assessment notes that Minnesota health officials and postal staffers "successfully coordinated the notification, activation, and assembly of the personnel and equipment" required to disperse the pill containers; participating police officers reported on time and carried out their duties as intended; and "real world" issues such as crowded roadways and car troubles were handled in the proper manner by participants.
Among the challenges identified during the practice run was sending the two-person delivery units back into action after they had finished their designated deliveries, according to the report.
"Lack of a defined process for reallocating teams after they had completed their assigned routes delayed reallocation of teams to new routes by as much as 40 minutes," the document says.
Braun said other metropolitan areas developing for their own medical countermeasure delivery plans, including Seattle and Boston, would benefit from the lessons learned in the Twin Cities exercise.
"We're now waiting for further direction from the federal government on how they want to develop this," Braun said (Robert Roos, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, Aug. 9).
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