Mason to Help Fairfax County Residents Prepare for Emergencies

Posted: October 15, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

Mason is joining forces with the Fairfax County Health Department to help residents become better prepared for possible public health emergencies.

To address growing concerns of terrorist acts, weather disasters and contagious diseases, the Fairfax County’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Mason will host a Cities Readiness Initiative Training and Exercise Program on Saturday, Oct. 27, from 9 am to 1 p.m. at the Patriot Center.

Hundreds of volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps, Volunteer Fairfax, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation and members of the Mason community will go though a practice drill to more accurately determine the county’s level of efficiency in dispensing medications in the event of a widespread emergency.

Approximately 150 volunteers are being trained on the deployment aspect of the drill and helping a large group of people in need of emergency assistance. All will go through the Patriot Center to practice the flow plan and processing stations. They will then be transported to nearby Oak View Elementary School where they will direct an expected crowd of approximately 700 volunteers through the process.

“This is a terrific opportunity for sororities and fraternities on campus, as well as everyone else in the Mason community, to volunteer their time to promote the awareness of these vital issues,” says Keith Cunningham, emergency plans officer at Mason. “Depending on how many volunteers turn out, we will be able to learn from potential obstacles and refine our methods.”

This is the first time emergency response agencies have conducted a mass dispensing exercise of this type in Fairfax County. Organizers hope to learn important lessons about how to run large-scale dispensing operations efficiently and to eventually cut the entire processing time down to about 35 minutes per person.

More than 400 volunteers have already signed up, but health department officials say that more are needed to accurately determine the program’s efficiency. Lunch will be provided and volunteers will receive a free T-shirt.

“We have a great exercise planned and a lot of county and nongovernmental groups involved,” says Wesley McDermott, emergency preparedness coordinator for the Health Department. “This should really help us fine-tune our plan so we are better prepared to handle a large crisis.”

The Office of Emergency Preparedness is responsible for coordinating preparedness, response and recovery efforts for significant public health emergencies that may occur in the community. Emergency management personnel are on duty around the clock to monitor significant emergency events that may adversely affect the residents of Fairfax County.

For more information and to register as a volunteer, go to the Emergency Preparedness web page for further details.

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