Operation Green Dragon -- Training exercise readies officials for anthrax attack
February 6, 2014
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Drivers lined up in the rain in the parking lot of Semmes Lake Tuesday morning as preventive medicine was being issued to Soldiers and installation employees "contaminated" during a simulated terror threat.
The scenario: A sovereign citizen group had stolen a helicopter and strafed Interstate 77 with anthrax. A "point of distribution," or POD, was established on post to issue preventive care to those possibly affected by the attack, while others on post were being prepared for hospital transport.
Part of Tuesday's "Operation Green Dragon" exercise was to test the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Strategic National Stockpile, said Fort Jackson's All Hazards Emergency Manager R.J. Frazier.
"That's when we do a mass inoculation for a community," Frazier said. "It's a CDC/ South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control-driven program where they issue ... packs of medicine for whatever the threat may be. This way, we get the (maximum) target population to give them medication -- a counter regiment -- to protect our community."
The affected area was cordoned off, he said, and a "plume" evaluation was done to determine how the wind currents might spread the disease. The fire department was dispatched to conduct decontamination of the people affected, with Emergency Medical Services later taking control of the scene.
"Those who can be moved or can walk will be evacuated by ambulances to two hospitals," Frazier said. "One is Palmetto Baptist, which is working in partnership with Moncrief Army Community Hospital, so we get to validate which agencies are supporting us."
Representatives from the DHEC assisted in Tuesday's exercise, as did members of the Medical Reserve Corps, said Capt. Christopher Wilson, installation public health emergency officer and chief of preventive medicine at MACH.
"The Medical Reserve Corps is an outside group, and they've provided the tent for us today, and also volunteered support to train us on how to use their tent system," Wilson said.
The tent was large enough to house the response team and allowed patients to drive their vehicles inside for service. This eliminated a number of potential traffic and parking problems, allowing patients to be treated quickly and efficiently.
"DHEC is supporting us with forms and information for public release," Wilson said. "We're passing out forms for people to fill out to make sure they don't have any reason not to take the medication we're giving them. They'll be screened by nurses and pharmacists and drive back home."
Outside agencies were crucial to Tuesday's exercise because an anthrax-related crisis would have consequences for people on both sides of Fort Jackson's gates, Frazier said.
"During a disaster or pandemic, outside the gates they have an open POD," he said. "DHEC will set up stations at CVS parking lots, the University of South Carolina stadium and what have you. Anyone can go."
Fort Jackson's access is more restricted, though.
"We're a closed POD, which is for Department of Defense ID card holders," Frazier said. "(But that population) is a little larger than just Fort Jackson, which is why DHEC wants to support us. We're helping a large portion of their population, as well. There are active duty (Soldiers,) family members, reservists and a very large retiree base outside of Fort Jackson. They come here for treatment, and we try to prepare to receive the brunt of that portion of the community."
Part of this week's exercise was to seek out problems with existing emergency plans. A medical crisis is the wrong time to find out that state and federal agencies have response measures that are inadvertently at odds with each other, Frazier said.
"We all have to work together," Frazier said. "A natural disaster is not the best time for us to work together for the first time. This lets us foster relations and gives us all a chance to review our plans, and review how we work together in the event of a crisis."