COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In the event of an emergency, it’s important that all parties involved, whether that be on a federal, state or local level, are able to work together to be able to better protect the public, which is why simulations like the one happening this week in Columbus are so important.
This week, the drill is to simulate an anthrax attack, to make sure everyone is prepared to deal with the situation in the event of an emergency.
“We’re ready to respond at a moment’s notice,” Ohio National Guard Deputy Commander Cpt. Amin Ansari said. “We have a 90-minute response time from the minute we get the call to report on scene to get out of the door.”
The Ohio National Guard Civil Support Team consists of members in the Army and Air Force who train to make sure they’re able to go to a scene and collect samples.
“What we’re doing here today is going into a call that we have been given a white powdery substance, that was our response and here we are on scene to try and figure out what it is and mitigate that hazard,” Ansari said.
Exercises like this allow the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to evaluate its ongoing readiness and make adjustments when necessary.
“It’s all with an eye towards best protecting the people of Ohio,” ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said.
The mission of ODH’s Bureau of Health Preparedness is to prepare, prevent and respond whenever the people of Ohio are experiencing threats to health and safety.
“During any potential biologic threat event like an anthrax attack, you see that we have our sampling teams, that are going in to access the situation, are well protected with specialized gear and that’s because even in this training episode, we’re working very hard to ensure that the experience is as real as possible,” Vanderhoff said.
The National Guard and the Columbus Fire Department suited up and went in to secure the scene.
“When we come on scene, we work for the incident commander and right now that happens to be the fire chief of hazmat four and whenever he or she, whoever is taking that incident command feels that we’ve met their objectives, that’s when we will end that mission set,” Ansari said..
The work still isn’t done; the next step is working with all 88 counties in Ohio.
“What that will involve is the local health departments making a request for medications based on their population need,” Vanderhoff said. “The Ohio Department of Health will then work to ship this medication. Now for this simulation ‘medication’ is going to be empty pill bottles to eight regional drop sites all around the state.”
The goal is to get the medication within the first 48 hours, then comes the debrief.
“The actual debrief will come from the incident commander telling us we’ve completed the mission, or we need more additional resources to come in and finalize things,” Ansari said.
The simulation continues Wednesday at the Historic Crew Stadium.