Feds deem county ready to handle disaster

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For second year in row, county gets perfect score on readiness assessment

The Center for Disease Control’s Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) has large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to protect the American public if there is a public health emergency (terrorist attack, flu outbreak, earthquake) severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.

Just in time for National Preparedness Month, Chester County has received a perfect score of 100 on the 2012 Federal Technical Assistance Review (TAR) for the second year in a row, county officials said.

The TAR is an annual assessment by the Centers for Disease Control supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health of the overall county Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) program.

“The lead federal evaluator noted that Chester County ‘has definitely developed an operational SNS plan which may be one of the best that I have seen across the nation,’” said Commissioners’ Chair Terence Farrell. “The federal report noted that we have an extremely dedicated core group of professionals working on our team to ensure the effective and efficient planning, coordination, and implementation of this complex program that is very important to public health and safety.”

A federal evaluation took place on June 26. The review included assessment of 12 SNS program elements such as Command, Control, and Coordination, communication and public information, and the core element of county-wide distribution and dispensing of medication in response to a countywide medical emergency.

“Many county professionals worked hard to prepare the plan,” said Commissioner Kathi Cozzone. “One of the top duties of county government is to make citizens safe, especially during emergencies.  We will continue to modify and improve the program, learning lessons from past training, exercises, and evaluations and responding to changes in ever-evolving risks and threats.”

The county’s SNS program is spearheaded by the county’s Health and Emergency Services departments.  Facilitated and supported by the Aquila Strategy and Operations Group, the team includes key county personnel, county school district representatives, hospital officials, representatives of care homes, municipal officials and groups, private businesses, large corporations, as well as several colleges and universities.

“The 100 percent rating for the second consecutive year is impressive, as is the cooperation and participation of every hospital and school district in Chester County” said Commissioner Ryan Costello. “This is a joint private and public partnership, and the goal is to keep everyone safe.”

The Chester County SNS program is part of a federally-managed system that, in the event of a major public health emergency, provides medication, medical equipment, and medical supplies to local areas to support the local response to the emergency, which could be natural or human-caused.  Typical planning scenarios include a terrorist attack, pandemic influenza, and mass Anthrax exposure.  If such an emergency occurred, citizens would be given  specific instructions and likely directed  to various sites to receive medication.

In the region, Chester County joined Philadelphia and Delaware Counties in receiving back-to-back perfect scores,  said Rebecca Brain, a county spokeswoman. She said state officials indicated that few jurisdictions nationwide have achieved “this level of evaluated proficiency and readiness.”

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