The Delaware General Health District conducted a full-scale emergency exercise Friday morning at the Delaware County Fairgrounds and worked to combat a fictional anthrax attack by terrorists.
The health district, along with dozens of county agencies, including the Delaware Emergency Management Agency and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, worked to deliver medication to hundreds of volunteers posing as people in need during a crisis.
Health Commissioner Shelia Hiddleson said the scenario centered around a fictional terrorist attack involving anthrax in Lewis Center. The scenario required staff to process more than 400 volunteers and give them the appropriate medicine to contain the outbreak.
“The exercise focuses on our throughput,” Hiddleson said. “It will help pinpoint what we can improve.”
Traci Whittaker, public information officer for the health district, said the scenario had other variables, like people jumping over fences to gain access to the fairgrounds or having special needs like language to contend with.
Whittaker said she was also required to work on fictional news briefs and Hiddleson was required to give a fictional press conference about the attack.
Non-health district employees were also on hand to evaluate health district employees and score how well they did.
Hiddleson, the incident commander in the fictional scenario, said the exercise was one of the largest the district has done. Hiddleson said the health district does several smaller exercises and scenarios throughout the year but usually they are on a much smaller scale.
“I would say the full-scale exercise was a success,” said Hiddleson. “We are so thankful for the hundreds of volunteers that came out, along with the opportunity to work with many of our partner agencies.”
Hiddleson added that the exercise helped identify some areas of strengths and some areas of improvement within the health district’s emergency response plans.
Hiddleson said that while the scenario only involved 400 people, it could scaled up and spread out throughout the county to function during a real emergency.
“We want people to know we have a plan,” Hiddleson said. “The main reason for this exercise is so we would be ready to do that. We’re ready and prepared.”
The exercise ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and also included hundreds of middle school students from Olentangy Local Schools.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.