Baltimore Practices For Widespread Medical Emergency In Drill

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A widespread medical emergency, like a killer flu pandemic or a bio-weapon attack, will need a quick, widespread response.

Alex DeMetrick reports how Baltimore is trying to prepare.

“We’re doing a training today on what happens if Anthrax is in our city and we have to get the antibiotic to every single resident,” says Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s Health Commissioner.

A couple of hundred volunteers were put in motion, each assigned a job.

“We maintain the medicine that’s being dispensed,” said one participant. “The main thing is making sure all of the medication stations have it, they don’t run out.”

“You can go right over in that lane of stanchions, rights over there,” said another volunteer to a participant pretending to be sick.

That’s why this preparedness drill is being held in a community center, not a hospital — the volunteers standing in for the hundreds of thousands who will be directed to centers scattered around Baltimore, whether for an Anthrax attack or a killer flu pandemic.

“These are our worst nightmares, but they’re all things that can happen,” Wen says.

The unpredictability of an emergency medical event happened just this week in Maryland. In Frederick, a hospital was sealed off for a hazmat incident, when two men got sick after opening a package. It turned out to be cleaning fluid, but no chances were taken.

And while the drill used empty vials, it gave staff and volunteers a sense of what might someday be real.

“If we were to have a major breakout, I’m grateful they would have some kind of structure in place that would help us,” said Margaret Lloyd, a volunteer.

“If we’re not prepared for these emergencies, then there is going to be panic,” says Wen. “That’s why we drill.”

The drill was a joint operation between Baltimore’s Health Department and its police and fire departments.

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