County makes dispersal of medications available in crises

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The Mountain Emergency Services Committee meets monthly in Idyllwild to discuss emergency preparedness on the Hill. Meetings are open to the public and Jerry Hagen, District 3 emergency services coordinator, brings in speakers to discuss topics of interest to the general public, as well as attending local volunteer disaster-aid groups.

At the Thursday morning, June 9 meeting, Jennifer Smith, program coordinator for the Cities Readiness Initiative volunteer program, spoke about the county program to disperse medication during health crises. She mentioned anthrax, or a similar threat or pandemic, as an example of the type of crisis that would activate the “point of dispersal” program.

Prophylactic medications or vaccinations would be given to the general population at sites designated by the county Public Health Department to protect the public from biological threats or epidemics. The sole purpose of a POD is to quickly distribute preventive medication to large numbers of people during a public health emergency.

“A POD would be opened when a large portion of population is exposed to risk,” said Smith. She assured attendees that Idyllwild would not be left out in the event of a public-health crisis and that the county would open a POD on the Hill to serve the Hill if our population was affected.

The POD website (www.rivcocri.org/POD) states that distribution centers would be open 24 hours a day for about 48 hours during the type of public-health emergency that would mandate dispersal of prophylactic medication or vaccination. Smith described POD procedure as involving interviewing people online before dispensing medications. Anyone exhibiting symptoms would be referred to a treatment station and then referred for further medical help.

Hagen stressed his commitment to expanding attendance, making sure that meetings were held as scheduled, and bringing in speakers to discuss topics of real interest to this community. “My goal is to have increased attendance,” said Hagen. “We’ve discussed having tabletop [disaster scenario] exercises and bringing in more professional responders. I will always try to bring something interesting to the table.”

Hagen mentioned one topic that has become even more important since the recent mass killings in Orlando, Florida. “I have an ‘active shooter’ presentation lined up,” he said. Hagen would like to hear from the community about the kinds of presentations they would like to hear at monthly MEMSCOMM meetings. To contact Hagen, call 951-955-4700 or email at jerry.hagen@fire.ca.gov.

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