CHHS Supports Closed POD Bulk Distribution Exercise for Montgomery County

The University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) conducted a full-scale Closed Point of Dispensing (POD) bulk distribution exercise today, sponsored by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Services (DHHS/PHS) and the Maryland Emergency Response System of the National Capital Region (MDERS) with funds from the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI).

This exercise was designed to assess Montgomery County’s ability to distribute medical countermeasures (such as antibiotics) in bulk to local nursing homes and large assisted living facilities serving as Closed POD partners during a response to a bioterrorism incident or other public health emergency affecting the County’s population.  Closed PODs refer to specific businesses or organizations that have agreed to work with the local health department to quickly dispense emergency medical countermeasures to their staff and family members, and in some cases, patients or clients, in response to a large-scale public health emergency.

Participating agencies in this exercise included DHHS/PHS and nursing homes and large assisted living facilities in Montgomery County, with support from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service and Montgomery County Police Department personnel.  Response capabilities assessed in this exercise included the County’s ability to activate and operate a bulk distribution site for Closed POD partners, to communicate effectively between response partners, and to maintain fluid movement of resources and personnel.

Today’s exercise builds upon a tabletop exercise held in February, which brought together representatives from DHHS/PHS, nursing homes, and large assisted living facilities to discuss key planning issues related to the activation of Closed PODs that are likely to arise during a public health emergency in Montgomery County.  CHHS analysts working with DHHS/PHS were extensively involved in the planning and design of both exercises, while members of the CHHS Exercise and Training team served as facilitators, controllers, and evaluators.

Last spring, CHHS designed and facilitated an Open POD Exercise for Montgomery County, which tested the County’s ability to effectively dispense mass amounts of medications to members of the general public who (unlike those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities) can walk/drive to one of the County’s Open POD sites to pick-up medical countermeasures.

Past clients utilizing CHHS training and exercise expertise have included local governments across Maryland and the State’s Emergency Management Agency, as well as colleges, hospitals, and the D.C Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. CHHS also offers planning services in continuity of operations, critical infrastructure protection, interoperability, mass evacuation and sheltering, and resource management. Numerous public health organizations have also sought out CHHS expertise on issues such as medical surge planning, legal issues surrounding public health emergencies, and hospital preparedness and response.

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