by Nicole Reitz
Oswego County Health Department employees stepped away from their desks Wednesday and unloaded and sorted 26,500 boxes of Girl Scout cookies at the Highway Garage in Scriba.
With the help of the Oswego County Highway Department, the employees shuffled around boxes of cookies as part of a Strategic National Stockpile drill.
The Strategic National Stockpile is the national repository of antibiotics, vaccines, chemical antidotes, antitoxins and other critical medical equipment and supplies used in the event of a emergency.
The cookie boxes simulated the medical supplies the health department would need to ship and organize in the event of a disaster, or emergency involving bioterrorism or a natural pandemic.
Federal authorities require that state and local governments to be able to demonstrate their ability to request, receive and dispense medications and other materials from the stockpile.
As part of the exercise, health department staff received an inventory of Girl Scout cookies, unloaded the shipment, sorted them by product and then sorted orders for the 25 local troops. The cookies were then processed for shipment.
Oswego area scout leaders picked up their cookie shipments from the county highway garage at the conclusion of the drill. County highway vehicles delivered remaining shipments to sites in Lycoming, Mexico and Parish.
According to Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Anna McNamara, each staff person was given a job, indicated by their vest color.
Staff wearing orange vests were in charge of quality control, green symbolized quality insurance and red vests oversaw incident command.
Staff wearing orange and green vests also had to verify the total amount of cookie boxes.
The simulated drill gave the health department the chance to test out their ability to ship and receive assets and evaluate their emergency plans in a controlled environment. The health department is required to regularly review and update plans, and periodically test them with table top exercises.
Wednesday’s drill, however, was the biggest exercise of its kind.
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