Recent news and events in respect to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and
bio-terror indicate that the U.S. government will be using the USPS as either
the deliverer of the initial bio-terror pandemic agent (the disease), the
deliverer of the bio-terror vaccine (the cure), or both. Numerous drills in
multiple states all indicate that the USPS will be used in a bio-terror
pandemic and may have been funded and maintained specifically for this special occasion.
By dispersing highly contagious pathogens via the USPS, a pandemic will appear highly contagious and able to spread great distances without intimate contact. One the public panic is in play, people will line up all across America to take tainted vaccines that will likely result in the death of millions.
Date: September 7, 2007
Abstract: White cardboard boxes small enough to fit in a medicine cabinet will be delivered Sept. 23 to the mailboxes and doorsteps of more than 23,000 Boston households.
The packages will be empty, but the purpose of their delivery will be deadly serious.
The parcels will be tangible evidence of how effectively and swiftly antibiotics can be delivered if terrorists attack with anthrax. Boston will be the third US city to participate in such an exercise, pairing mail carriers, police officers, and public-health specialists.
The fake pill boxes will be delivered to every residence in two ZIP codes: 02132, in West Roxbury, and 02118, which covers most of the South End and a sliver of Roxbury.
The exercise will yield clues about how medication could be dispensed during other health emergencies.
"We feel that it is a way to get an initial push of life-saving medications out to residents on a very fast basis and allaying, hopefully, any sense of panic among the public," said John Jacob, acting director of the city's Public Health Preparedness Office.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the arrival of rogue letters containing anthrax a month later, big cities such as Boston have been engaged in campaigns to prepare for assaults involving biological agents such as anthrax, plague, and tularemia. Antibiotics work stunningly well against those bacteria, but they have to be administered within 48 hours of exposure.
Typically, doctors would be loathe to even consider blanketing a city with drugs without first assessing patients individually. That would change, though, in the midst of a bioterror attack.
"Normally, we prefer to have a health professional do it, but when we're dealing with the prospect that there could be thousands or tens of thousands of deaths and speed could mitigate that, for me and many of my colleagues, the ethical calculus is pretty clear," said Dr. William Raub, science adviser to Mike Leavitt, US secretary of Health and Human Services.
In the event of a biological attack, cities would establish drug-dispensing centers in schools and community centers. In Boston, the city's Public Health Commission would open 30. But because it would take time to get those centers running, health authorities became intrigued by the possibility of using mail carriers to deliver an initial supply of antibiotics. The drug of choice against anthrax would be Doxycycline.
The federal government is underwriting the cost of the exercises, which cost "well under $100,000" each, Raub said.
"The idea is you can hit a lot of households fast," said James Apa, communications manager for Public Health - Seattle & King County, where the first drill was held in Washington state in November. "It actually went quicker than expected; it ran ahead of schedule."
In Boston, more than 30 pairs of US Postal Service carriers and Boston police officers will venture onto the streets of the two ZIP codes at 7 a.m., Sept. 23.
Those two areas were selected because of their diversity and differences. In West Roxbury, the residents tend to be older, and mail is often ferried by vehicles. In the other ZIP code, carriers travel on foot, and, Jacob said, "the Sound End is just a really great, widely varied demographic."
Authorities decided to conduct the experiment on a Sunday, in part because they did not want to disrupt mail delivery on regular service days. They also figured that if terrorists struck, regular mail delivery would stop and people would stay indoors.
Health agencies quickly identified mail carriers as their best option for emergency deliveries, and the Postal Service agreed.
"Getting these medications out to people as fast as possible will be of utmost importance," said Bob Cannon, spokesman for the Postal Service in Boston. "The letter carriers know the streets, they know where the mailboxes are, they know how to walk these routes."
The mail service did have one major concern: the safety of their carriers if they're dropping off medication that could be widely coveted during an emergency. That's why a police officer is being paired with each letter carrier.
The boxes are meant to simulate containers that would carry 20 pills of Doxycycline. Once the drill is completed, recipients of the boxes can recycle them or, Jacob said, save them as a keepsake (Boston.com, 2007).
Title: Unknowing Residents To Take
Part In Terror Drill
Date: September 7, 2007
Source: WCVB TV
Abstract: About 23,000 Boston residents are weeks away from taking part in a bioterror drill, and many probably don't even know it.
Health officials plan to have mail carriers deliver tiny white cardboard boxes to the doorsteps and mailboxes of thousands of residents in the city's West Roxbury and South End neighborhoods on Sunday, Sept. 23.
"Anytime you are talking about a release of anthrax in the city, you are talking about pretty much a worst case scenario where you need to get medications to people as quickly as possible," said John Jacob of the Boston Public Health Commission.
The empty boxes will be used to simulate how quickly antibiotics could be delivered to residents in the event of a bioterror attack.
"No one knows the streets, knows the deliveries, knows where the houses are and the sequence they are set up in better than letter carriers do," said Bob Cannon of the U.S. Postal Service.
In the event of a real emergency when the antibiotics are highly coveted, the mail carriers will have a police escort.
"There is no emergency whatsoever. This is just a test, and this is a way for us to figure out if this particular delivery option is a good fit for Boston," Jacob said.
If it were a real emergency, each box would hold 20 pills (WCVB TV, 2007).
Title: U.S. Postal Service To Be In Charge Of Drug
Delivery In The Event Of A Bioattack
Date: December 21, 2009
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Following an executive order released Wednesday, the U.S. Postal Service will be put in charge of delivering drugs and other medical aid to Americans in the event of a large-scale biological weapon attack.
President Obama’s order states that the postal service will be in charge of dispensing “medical countermeasures” for biological weapons in the event of an attack because of its ability to deliver to U.S. citizens rapidly.
Federal agencies are required to develop a response plan within 180 days including possible law enforcement escorts for postal service workers under the order, which cites anthrax as a primary threat consideration. The order would see local law enforcement supplemented by local federal law enforcement officers.
The Secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, acting in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, must develop a concept for operations and establish requirements for dispensing medical countermeasures to an affected population through a federal rapid response program.
The order, President Obama says, does not supersede the authorities of other agencies and seeks to “mitigate illness and prevent death; sustain critical infrastructure; and complement and supplement state, local, territorial, and tribal government medical countermeasure distribution capacity.”
The plan is to be developed by the Secretaries of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Defense, and the Attorney General working in coordination with the U.S. Postal Service in consultation with state and local public health, emergency management and law enforcement officials (Bio Prep Watch, 2009).Title: In Bio Attack, US Post Office Could Distribute Aid
Date: December 30, 2009
Abstract: The US Post Office could play a key role in distributing medical aid in the event of a biological attack, according to an executive order released by the White House.
The order signed by President Barack Obama directs government agencies, local law enforcement and the US Post Office to work on a model for distribution of medical countermeasures in the wake of a biological attack.
"This policy would seek to: (1) mitigate illness and prevent death; (2) sustain critical infrastructure; and (3) complement and supplement State, local, territorial, and tribal government medical countermeasure distribution capacity," the order said.
"The US Postal Service has the capacity for rapid residential delivery of medical countermeasures for self administration across all communities in the United States," the order added.
The US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were instructed to work with the post office to develop a "dispensing model for US cities to respond to a large-scale biological attack, with anthrax as the primary threat consideration."
The order calls for the model to be drawn up within 180 days, but gives no details as to whether the idea of using the US postal system to assist Americans in the wake of a biological attack is a new one.
The United States
has sought to bolster its capacity to respond to biological attacks
since 2001, when anthrax-laced letters mailed to people across the
United States led to five deaths (AFP, 2009).
Title: Obama Spurs Plans To Deliver Drugs By Mail
After Bio Attack
Date: December 31, 2009
Abstract: President Barack Obama, giving a push to a proposal that has been in the works for years, yesterday ordered federal agencies to develop a plan for the US Postal Service (USPS) to deliver medical countermeasures to households in the wake of a biological attack.
In an executive order, Obama said the federal government "shall pursue a national U.S. Postal Service medical countermeasures dispensing model to respond to a large-scale biological attack."
The president ordered the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Homeland Security (DHS) to work with the USPS to develop a countermeasures delivery plan within 6 months, focused on anthrax as the primary threat. An attacker who sent anthrax spores by mail was blamed for killing five people and sickening 17 more in the fall of 2001.
The White House order also calls on federal agencies to plan for the use of federal law enforcement officers, if needed, to help local law officers escort mail carriers delivering the medical supplies, most likely antibiotics.
Obama further ordered HHS, DHS, and the Department of Defense to develop a plan for helping state and local governments distribute medical countermeasures if necessary. The agencies are also ordered to plan for providing countermeasures to essential federal personnel so the government could keep functioning after an attack.
Assigning the USPS to deliver antibiotics after a bioterrorist attack is not a new idea. "The Postal Service has been working on this project for years," USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan commented to CIDRAP News today.
Brennan noted that the agency conducted three proof-of-concept drills in 2006 and 2007—one each in Seattle, Philadelphia, and Boston. In those exercises, a total of 119 mail carriers delivered dummy boxes of antibiotics and explanatory fliers to 114,000 households, she said.
Another exercise is scheduled to take place in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area sometime in 2010, with mail carriers delivering packages to 205,000 homes, about 25% of the metro area. That drill will have a new dimension, she said, in that the mail carriers will be screened for special measures to protect themselves from anthrax. Plans for the exercise were first announced in October 2008.
"We have solicited volunteer letter carriers who had to be fit tested for masks and had to undergo physicals to ensure they could take [the antibiotic] doxycycline," Brennan said. "They and their families will be given antibiotics for the test period. They obviously won't need to take them since it's a test."
The first announcement of a proposal to have the USPS deliver antibiotics after a bioterrorist attack came in February 2004. USPS officials said then that the idea was to use mail carriers to deliver antibiotics from the Strategic National Stockpile as a way to supplement local public health efforts in response to a major incident.
Obama's order yesterday came less than a week after a man with alleged ties to al-Quaida tried to bring down an airliner bound for Detroit by setting off an explosive mixture in his clothing. As an Associated Press report noted, since that failed attack, the president has sought to assure the public that his administration is striving to protect the country from terrorists (CIDRAP, 2009).
Title: Postal Workers May Become Part Of Plan To
Fight Anthrax Attacks
Date: May 24, 2010
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Mail carriers in Minnesota may soon play a part in the war on terror, according to a news report by kstp.com.
The plan, which will be funded by a $6 million grant through the federal government for anthrax emergency preparedness, will coordinate efforts of the state’s mail carriers, lab technicians and law enforcement officers.
The state’s Department of Health will be responsible for testing material for anthrax. Another part of the plan, according to the news report, could involve the distribution of antibiotic pill packs that would be supplied by the federal government.
Those pill packs would be sent to the state’s Office of Emergency Preparedness within 12 hours of possible exposure and then distributed by mail carriers with state trooper escorts, according to the report.
Pam Donate is a Minnesota mail carrier who was one of 400 volunteers to be trained to deliver medications via mail during an anthrax attack.
“Letter carriers are very attached to the people they serve in the neighborhoods,” Donate told kstp.com.
The report noted that approximately 50 state troopers would escort postal workers, offering protection, specifically in densely populated areas around the Twin Cities.
“We don’t know when something will happen, if it will happen or what it’ll be, but the last thing we want to do is get flat-footed,” Minnesota State Patrol Captain Matt Langer told kstp.com (Bio Prep Watch, 2010).
Title: U.S. Postal Service Tests Bioterror
Date: August 20, 2010
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Postal employees in Lansing, Michigan, conducted decontamination drills on August 18, simulating their response to a bioterror attack using anthrax.
Anthrax, caused by inhaling, digesting or breathing the bacteria or spores of Bacillus anthracis, killed five people in a 2001 mail attack in Washington, D.C. Among the dead were two postal workers. Since then, the U.S. Postal Service has taken better measures to protect its employees, including holding such drills, according to the Lansing State Journal.
The exercise, the first since 2007, was held at the Lansing post office and processing center, and included training in the use of an inflatable decontamination station and hazardous materials suits.
The Lansing police and fire departments and members of the Ingham County Health Department also played an active role in the drills, the Lansing State Journal reports. Marcus Cheatum, the assistant deputy health officer at the health department, told the Lansing State Journal that the training helps officials find and fix problems in their responses and teaches the different organizations to work together.
"Before 9/11 and before we started doing these drills, we never partnered with the post office or the Fire Department or the sheriff on things like this, and now we’re doing stuff jointly all the time," Cheatum told the Lansing State Journal.
"It just gives us all an opportunity to get together, look at our processes … and make sure everything works in an orderly fashion," Postal Service spokeswoman Sabrina Todd told the Lansing State Journal (Bio Prep Watch, 2010).
Title: Postal Service Preparing Bioterror Response
Date: November 17, 2010
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: The United States Postal Service has teamed up with state and local health departments to prepare for a mass distribution system by testing delivery of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention medication in case of anthrax attack.
In December 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the USPS to create a national dispensing model within 180 days that would allow U.S. cities to respond to a large anthrax attack, Emergencymgmt.com reports.
The program, known as the postal plan, uses letter carriers around the country to deliver medical countermeasures and information about how to take the medication. Since medication must be administered within 48 hours of infection, regular mail delivery would be halted and replaced with this important package.
The postal plan is currently being tested in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area within the 551 and 554 zip codes. Before the executive order, similar exercises had been performed in Philadelphia, Seattle and Boston to great success.
“The process went well, and it only took about six to nine hours for them to cover their route and make sure all those folks – the 20, 40 and 50 thousand – received their mock antibiotics in a timely fashion,” John Koerner, chief of the CBRN branch of the HHS, said, according to Emergencymgmt.com. “The proof of concept showed that it can work.”
While most residents during an anthrax attack would receive antibiotics in a mass dispensing site, the postal plan might have to be enacted in high density zip codes to take pressure off the distribution sites.
According to the Military Vaccine Agency, an untreated inhalation of anthrax would lead to a higher than 99 percent death rate. After the antibiotics treatment is started for anthrax, it must be continued for approximately 60 days (Bio Prep Watch, 2010).
Title: Five Metro [U.S. Postal] Areas To Receive
Grants To Fight Anthrax
Date: August 3, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Five metropolitan areas that have demonstrated the ability to deliver anthrax antibiotics through the National Postal Model will receive a total of $400,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The grants fund planning and exercises incorporating U.S. Postal Service workers into community plans to deliver medication after an anthrax bioterrorism attack, the News Eagle reports.
The Boston Public Health Commission, the Philadelphia Department of Health, the Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Board in Kentucky and the San Diego Health and Human Services Agency will each receive $50,000 grants for initial planning and exercises. The Minneapolis Department of Health, will receive a $200,000 grant to conduct a full-scale exercise simulating an anthrax attack in the metropolitan area.
If a full-scale anthrax attack were to occur, everyone potentially exposed to anthrax would need to receive an initial supply of antibiotics within 48 hours. Under the NPM, volunteers from the USPS would pick up antibiotic packages at an established location and, protected by law enforcement officers, would deliver the antibiotics to homes in predetermined ZIP codes.
“The fatality rate for people whose lungs are infected with anthrax is extremely high if they do not receive antibiotic treatment, which means the quicker health professionals can get antibiotics into people’s hands, the quicker we can protect health and save lives,” Dr. Nicole Lurie, the assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response, said, according to the News Eagle. “The postal model offers an additional tool for local health departments to begin treating people potentially exposed to anthrax.”
This method would augment existing dispensing plans that ask residents and visitors to go to special medication dispensing sites (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: San Diego To Train Postal Works On
Bioterror Antibiotic Deliveries
Date: August 24, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Postal workers in San Diego will soon be trained to
deliver emergency antibiotics to all 3.2 million county residents in the event
of a bioterrorist attack.
Jack Walsh, a coordinator for the county's Counterbioterrorism and Preparedness Task Force, said that during a full-scale anthrax attack, antibiotics would need to be delivered to residents within 48 hours from the federal Strategic National Stockpile, KPBS said. During an anthrax attack, the county would get doxycycline and ciprofloxacin antibiotics.
“Signs and symptoms for anthrax can show as early as 48 hours," Walsh said, according to KPBS. "So the survival rate for anthrax once signs and symptoms have popped up is not very good. If we can get meds delivered, then we can save 98 percent of the people. (Medication) would come to the county’s warehouse where the Postal Service would come and pick it up and take it to their delivery units, load it up into their trucks and deliver it to everybody’s address."
Each of the postal workers who volunteers for the training would have a security or police escort and be equipped with gloves and a mask. They would be given a supply of emergency medications for their families in advance.
San Diego is one of five U.S. cities that has been selected for a grant to pay for initial distribution training and exercises.
"There’s a low probability of a bioterror attack, but a high likelihood of mass fatalities if we’re not prepared," Walsh said, according to KPBS.
In 2001, anthrax-laced letters that were sent to media companies and congressional offices killed five people (Bio Prep Watch).
Title: Iowa Postal Employees Practice Anthrax
Date: September 1, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Postal employees, first responders and local emergency officials in Waterloo, Iowa, recently conducted a biological attack drill that simulated an anthrax mail attack similar to the ones carried out in 2001.
During the scenario, authorities sealed off the post office and a group of student volunteers simulated potential anthrax victims. The exercise provided officials with new insights as to how to operate during an emergency, as well as new tools to use during a response, according to WCFCourier.com.
"It's as real as we can make it and still get it done," Sgt. Aaron McClelland of the Waterloo Police Department said, WCFCourier.com reports.
Though a real event would be most likely to unfold over a series of days, the recent exercise was compressed into a matter of hours.
Firefighters donned hazmat suits in order to rescue those inside the post office while members of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service began a more thorough investigation. Officials from the Iowa State Patrol, Black Hawk County Health Department and the Iowa National Guard also took part.
"There was a number of different agencies involved. We had federal, state and county and city resources," Jewell said, according to WCFCourier.com.The National Guard provided a unique communications system for the event that tied together the radios from the different participants (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: Louisville Postal Carrier To Carry Antibiotics
In The Event Of Bioattack
Date: March 21, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: More than 300 postal carriers in Louisville, Kentucky, have volunteered to carry antibiotics to nearby residents in the case of an attack using an airborne biological agent.
Louisville and Minneapolis-St. Paul were chosen to take the lead in a demonstration project program aimed at using postal workers to deliver supplies of the antibiotic doxycycline to residential addresses within 48 hours of an emergency, according to Courier-Journal.com.
Edward Gabriel, the principal deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said that the Louisville project could serve as example to other cities seeking to be better prepared for a biological attack.
“Other cities across the country will be watching closely to learn how to apply this model in their own communities,” Gabriel said, Courier-Journal.com reports.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, the U.S. Postal Service and HHS are expected to officially announce the program soon.
“Creating a safer city and a healthier city are two top priorities, and this agreement puts us at the cutting edge of national efforts to protect our citizens,” Fischer said, Courier-Journal.com reports. “Louisville will become the national model in that our plan includes door-to-door delivery to citizens in both urban and rural ZIP codes.”
Louisville was chosen
because of its experience as a testing site for other disaster drills. So far,
nearly 70 percent of available couriers have volunteered for the program (Bio
Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: Minnesota Mail Carrier To Test Anthrax Antibiotic Delivery Program
Date: March 22, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Mail carriers in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, will deliver empty pill bottles to approximately 35,000 homes on May 6 to test a program that would deliver antibiotics in the event of an anthrax attack.
U.S. Postal Service carriers will make the Sunday deliveries to four zip codes, one in the Minneapolis suburbs, one in Minneapolis and two in St. Paul. Operation Medicine Delivery will see how fast postal teams can deliver medicine to homes in case of an emergency, CIDRAP News reports.
“People will get an empty bottle, similar to what would be used in the real thing,” Peter Nowacki, a Minneapolis USPS spokesman, said, according to CIDRAP News. “There’ll be an information sheet explaining what it’s all about, that it’s just a test to see how well it works. It’ll have links and phone numbers for more information.”
The Twin Cities area is one of at least five large cities in the U.S. planning federally funded programs to use the USPS to respond to bioterrorist attacks. The other areas include Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston and Louisville, Kentucky. While Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle have run limited exercises, the Minnesota test will use a fully developed team of trained volunteers.
“This is the first metro area in the country to recruit a full complement of postal volunteers for this program, and set up a fully developed postal delivery system,” the Minnesota Department of Health, said, according to CIDRAP News.
If a real emergency
were to occur, postal delivery would not be used for all residents of the Twin
Cities, but as a way to relieve pressure from the medication centers in densely
populated parts of the area (Bio
Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: Minneapolis-St. Paul To Conduct Large Scale MCM Distribution Test
Date: April 24, 2012
Abstract: Approximately 40,000 Minneapolis-St. Paul residents are scheduled to receive an empty pill bottle in their mailboxes on May 6 as part of a test of the area’s bioterrorism emergency antibiotic distribution system.
The empty pill bottle represents the medical countermeasures to be given to the public in the event of a bioterror attack using an airborne agent such as anthrax, according to StarTribune.com.
The drill, named “Operation Medicine Delivery,” is being conducted as a joint effort between the Minnesota Department of Health and the U.S. Postal Service. More than 300 mail carriers are participating in the exercise, which crosses four zip codes and hopes to reach at least 37,000 residences.
In a real emergency, mail carriers would be expected to deliver preventative doses of medication to residents within the first 48 hours of an attack, although much of the distribution effort in that critical time would be carried out through the use of local dispensing sites that would be run by area public health organizations.
The exercise in the Twin Cities will be the first full-scale test of a system that has tried in Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle with some success. Minnesota health officials, who have been developing the system since 2004, expect other states to closely watch the outcome.
Title: Minn. Exercise Will Measure Anthrax
Response Tme By USPS
Date: May 4, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: A bioterrorism simulation scheduled for Sunday will take place in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, area to determine how quickly the United States Postal Service can respond to an anthrax attack.
Operation Medicine Delivery is the first dry run of the USPS’s anthrax response plan. The exercise was announced on Thursday at a joint press conference of the USPS and the Minnesota Department of Health, Security Management reports.
“We’re going to be looking at how quickly it takes us to get the supply in and to different types of households – apartment buildings versus rural areas and areas where there’s a significant walk to one place to another,” Edward J. Gabriel, the principal deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said, according to Security Management.
The exercise will assess the process from the first confirmation of a simulated biological attack to medication delivery and debriefing. The exercise is mostly unscripted.
“The staging of the medication, placing them into the postal vehicles, the postal workers coming to work, the operation center monitoring the activities – all of it will be a part of the exercise,” Gabriel said, according to Security Management. “We plan, but don’t script it to the point where every variable is thought out ahead of time because we want to test how the process works.”
The National Postal Model for the Delivery of Medical Countermeasures is the federal government’s plan to deploy postal workers within 48 hours to deliver antibiotics to residents. Inhalation anthrax has a 90 percent mortality rate, but the rate drops to 75 percent if antibiotics are started within 48 hours.
To distribute medicine to the 575,000 people in households throughout the two cities, 180 volunteer carriers would be needed. The Minnesota program currently has over 300 volunteers.
“Will (the postal
model) be a success?” Gabriel said, according to Security Management. “It’s already a success. (In this exercise) we’re looking to see what
parts of the system can do better and what parts of the process can potentially
be changed” (Bio
Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: Large Scale MCM Delivery System Tested In Minnesota
Date: May 8, 2012
Abstract: Public health officials said the recent test of an emergency medicine delivery system in Minneapolis/St. Paul went well, but further analysis of the system will be conducted.
A spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Public Health said the system, which utilizes the U.S. Postal Service to deliver critical medical countermeasures, worked without any major problems, but more time is needed to assess it critically, according to StarTribune.com.
During what was called Operation Medicine Delivery, 300 mail carriers distributed simulated antibiotics to approximately 37,000 households in the region from four different ZIP codes. The drill began in the morning and was finished by 3 p.m.
“We’re very pleased with how the field portion of this test went,” Buddy Ferguson, a spokesman for the state Health Department, said, StarTribune.com reports. “We think this will be a very promising option in the event of an emergency. But there are lots of moving parts to it, and still lots of things yet to assess, lots of people, including law enforcement, to talk to about potential barriers that might be out there.”
Operation Medicine Delivery was funded by the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services. Similar pilot-tests have been conducted in Boston,
Philadelphia and Seattle, but the Twin Cities’ test is the first one conducted
on such a large scale (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Indianapolis Postal Service Conducts Anthrax Exercise
Date: June 27, 2012
Abstract: The United States Postal Service is preparing its staffers in Indiana to respond to a bioterrorism-related emergency.
The Indianapolis USPS Main Processing and Distribution Center announced that is participating in a major preparedness exercise that will help police, fire and health department workers learn to respond to an anthrax emergency, according to WIBC.com.
USPS Spokesperson Mary Dando said the exercise brings back memories of the 2001 anthrax attacks, when two postal workers lost their lives after handling anthrax-infected letters.
Dando said the post office regularly receives packages containing white powder. They are routinely isolated, tested and examined to determine their origins. She said the best means the USPS has to keep its staffers up-to-date on proper procedures is to conduct mock exercises like the one underway in Indianapolis, WIBC.com reports.
A plan to use postal workers to deliver life-saving medical countermeasures in case of a biological attack is currently being explored by the Cities Readiness Initiative, a federally funded program created in 2004 to help U.S. cities respond to an emergency.
Results from a recent exercise conducted in Minnesota showed that a sizable portion of postal employees would be willing to volunteer for such an assignment. Eighty-percent more postal employees than needed for the region offered to help, according to Philly.com.
There has been no mention of what effect proposed cuts in the USPS workforce could have on the MCM distribution plan (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Postal Workers Participate In Bioterror Drill
Date: July 11, 2012
Abstract: Throughout the summer, volunteers with the U.S. Postal Service are participating in a pilot bioterrorism program in five cities around the country to prepare for a biological terror attack.
As part of the scenario, police-escorted postal workers will deliver up to two bottles of fake emergency doxycyclene to a total of two million households in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Louisville, San Diego, Boston and Philadelphia. While the bottles of pills will not contain real drugs, the delivery will appear real to prepare local officials for a legitimate terrorist attack, the Washington Post reports.
Three years ago, President Obama issued an executive order to create a model in which postal workers could deliver medication during a widespread biological emergency. The household delivery would prevent the population from panicking and could reduce long lines at medicine distribution centers. The U.S. Postal Service has teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services, state and local officials and law enforcement agencies to put the $10 million plan into practice.
“Our idea is to get the medicine out there as quickly as we can, so we can help health officials set up other dispensing locations,” Jude Plessas, the manager of the program, said, according to the Washington Post. “We’re using an infrastructure that already exists to help with the local response.”
While mail carriers cannot be forced to be first responders in a
bioterrorism incident, hundreds have volunteered and have been trained to
participate in the plan. Officials said that in case of a real anthrax attack,
the mail carriers could be deployed within hours (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Report On Anthrax Antibiotic Postal Delivery Plan Released
Date: August 8, 2012
Abstract: In May, the Minnesota Department of Health, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Postal Service, ran the first full-scale test of Operation Medicine Delivery, a bioresponse plan that would rely on postal workers to deliver the first dose of antibiotics after a large-scale biological attack.
According to a summary of the action released by the MDH, of 33,000 addresses, workers were unable to deliver to approximately 1,600 households, Security Management reports.
Operation Medicine Deliver took place on Friday, May 4. Under the scenario of the simulation, the antibiotics were delivered on a Friday, after “evidence” of a biological terrorist attack on Minneapolis-St.Paul were discovered and the agent was “laboratory-confirmed” as anthrax.
In under 12 hours, 40 teams made of up one postal worker and one law enforcement escort delivered simulated medication to approximately 33,000 households in the area, according to Security Management.
Jude Plessas, a countermeasures distribution and delivery manager at the USPS, identified the postal service as an ideal means of delivery for such an operation due to its ability to reach all addresses. Initial field reports, though, note that some homes were missed during the simulated operation. A final report confirmed that 1,674 homes were missed due to such difficulties as dangerous dogs and mil slots too small to deliver the medication through. Additionally, one neighborhood was inaccessible due to high water from heavy rains.
“If this was a real emergency we would message those folks and tell them they should go to a medical distribution center [later] instead,” USPS spokesman Pete Nowacki said after the exercise, Security Management reports.
The operation’s major strengths include communication with the public prior to the exercise, command operations, law enforcement participation and response to “real world incidents,” such as flat tires and traffic congestion. The reports said more clarity was needed regarding who has authority to reallocate teams after a delivery and what terminology would be used to indicate route completion.
USPS and public health officials view the initial results as a success.
“We think that this exercise really established that the postal option is a viable way to get medicine to the public quickly in an emergency,” MDH spokesman Buddy Ferguson said during an interview in May, Security Management reports.
Operation Medicine Deliver will be used to establish baseline metrics for the National Postal Model, according to a report released on Tuesday.
“The lessons learned during the planning process and identified throughout exercise play will help inform other jurisdictions that are beginning to incorporate the Postal Plan model into their mass prophylaxis plans,” the report said, Security Management reports.The non-public after-action report is still in draft form (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: West Virginia Holds Mock Anthrax Contamination At Post Office
Date: August 16, 2012
Abstract: Charleston, West Virginia, conducted a simulation of an anthrax attack at its post office on Tuesday.
“If there’s things we can do better, that’s what we do these drills for because we want to play the way we practice,” Bob Sharp of the Charleston Fire Department said, WSAZ reports. “You know, so today we’re practicing it, and maybe we’ll learn a few things and make it better if the real thing does occur.”
The department conducted business as if it were a real anthrax attack, quarantining contaminated employees and ushering them through showers where they were brushed, rinsed and given a special suit to wear. They were then taken to a hospital by bus, according to WSAZ.
The exercise was tightly controlled and employees participated on a volunteer bases, many understanding well the serious threat of anthrax.
“I just wanted to go ahead and go through the whole procedure, just in case something ever did happen,” postal employee Jerome Hairston said, WSAZ reports. “Since I am a supervisor, I kind of need to know so I can help other people that are going through it.”“When those attacks happened back in 2001, there were two postal employees that actually died because they came in contact with a letter that was contamination by anthrax,” David Walton, a spokesperson with the postal service, said, according to WSAZ (BioPrepWatch, 2012).