Local emergency responders conduct large-scale drillTeams of volunteers with San Mateo County's emergency preparedness program went door to door in Menlo Park on Wednesday, March 11, testing the speed at which the district could distribute medicine in case of an emergency.
Volunteers distributed earthquake preparedness pamphlets to 2,447 homes in Menlo Park, and about 14,000 throughout the county, officials said. The drill was meant to mimic medicine distribution in the case of an anthrax attack, influenza pandemic or other health crisis.
Jon Johnston of the Menlo Park Fire District said the drill lasted for three hours in Menlo Park. The biggest challenge, he said, was tracking multiple team movements over a large area, and working efficiently with a command center using a ham radio.
"It was a success and we were definitely able to get a good critique of how things ran," he said.
The exercise was designed to test responder's ability to communicate with one another and disseminate information (or in the case of a real emergency, medicine) quickly and efficiently throughout the county.
Traditionally, agencies prepare for such disasters by offering medicine at various distribution points. Doris Estremera, spokeswoman for the San Mateo County Health System, said this approach raises logistical issues including parking and the risk of exposure.
"We wanted to see how quickly we can get it out without having people come to us,'' she said of the theoretical medicine being distributed.
This is the third year San Mateo County has conducted the drill.
Ms. Estremera said her organization threw canvassers a curveball, having actors pretending to have special issues or to require additional attention. Actors told the teams that the medication was against their religion, pretended not to speak English, or asked whether it was safe for pregnant women. Some actors pretended to be reporters trying to get interviews during the distribution process, according to Mr. Johnston.
—Bay City News Service contributed to this report.