Winnebago County agencies prepare for public health disaster

ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) -- It's a type of disaster we may not often think about but the outcome could be far-reaching and deadly. One local agency is now better prepared to handle such a disaster.

The Winnebago County Health Department in coordination with several other local agencies held a public health disaster drill at Rock Valley College, simulating a situation where large amounts of medication would need to be distributed to the public in the event of a chemical or biological attack.

Participants gained a unique perspective on what it takes to coordinate such an effort.

"This is an example of a full-scale exercise where we actually have players coming through, we're actually using the forms that we would use in a normal scenario. The setup, the layout. So it gives us the opportunity to see how the plan folds out because a plan sitting on a shelf doesn't do it," says Sandra Martell, Public Health Administrator for the Winnebago County Health Department.

Several local pharmacies and nursing students also had the opportunity to take part in the drill and many of them said this is a critical exercise that they wouldn't experience sitting in a classroom.

"It is a great opportunity to kind of show the role, especially for pharmacy students, to show our role in public health and if there were some public disaster and how we could kind of help," says Manar Kandil, a fourth-year pharmacy student.

Martell says the most important thing is to recognize that plans have to be continually analyzed and updated and that as a community we have to be able to respond to any type of disaster.