Deployed Forces: Homeland defense deploys for anthrax scenario

| March 26, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Darrell Ames
Joint Task Force- Homeland Defense  Public Affairs

PALAU — A small contingent of Joint Task Force Homeland Defense personnel traveled, here, recently to observe and provide requested expertise during the island nation’s Strategic National Stockpile, or SNS, tabletop and full-scale exercise.

The drill, hosted by the Republic of Palau and dubbed “Operation Snow Storm,” was an intentional anthrax contamination at several popular tourist accommodations and included the participation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control.

Joint Task Force Homeland Defense personnel review the day’s agenda during Operation Snow Storm. The Republic of Palau hosted an anthrax contamination exercise with JTF-HD personnel serving as observers and evaluators.“Our mission was strictly observation,” said Maj. John Parrish, JTF-HD executive officer. “The primary purpose of the exercise was to measure and validate performance during the deployment of SNS assets to ROP, receipt of the assets and, finally, dispensing of the assets.”

“The scenario was mass distribution of medicine during an anthrax attack,” said Pearl Marumoto, ROP Emergency Health Program, or EHP, administrator. “We’re using the exercise to test the capabilities of the agencies and how they respond as a nation to an emergency or disaster.

“We focus on anthrax because it is one of the diseases that might require mass distribution of medicines,” she added.

Anthrax is an acute disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, affecting both humans and other animals. Most forms of the disease are lethal, although there are effective vaccines against anthrax, and some forms of the disease respond well to antibiotic treatment.

The first day of the visit saw JTF-HD members participate in a Ministry of Health and EHP-coordinated tour, in which they were able to visit the ROP ministry of justice, National Emergency Management Office Bureau of Aviation, president’s chief of staff, vice president, ministry of finance, and ministry of health.

“Meeting with the leaders of Palau on that first day was very beneficial to all parties concerned,” said Parrish. “We wanted to let them know we were here for them if needed and that we were very excited to build and nurture our relationship with them.”

The second day started with a tabletop exercise and concluded on the fourth day with the actual functional drills. Drills were held at locations such as the airport — a designated receive, save and storage site — and the Palauan National Gymnasium, used as the point of dispensing site.

“The exercise also demonstrated how to coordinate the formulation and dissemination of clear, accurate and consistent information to the public and news media and to control the possible spread of rumors that could impact public safety,” said Greg Hand, CDC field representative.

The most exciting part of the visit for the JTF-HD staff members occurred on day five, as they were able to enjoy lunch with ROP President Johnson Toribiong.

“I want to thank the United States’ government for their participation in this exercise,” Toribiong said. “Palau and this region must indeed adopt a proactive emergency preparedness policy that will allow for the maximum protection of the people and assets during any natural, man-made or technical disasters.”

JTF-HD is based at Fort Shafter, and is designated as the Homeland Defense coordinating agency between the Department of Defense and civilian authorities in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, as well the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.

Working closely with Homeland Security, the Department of State and military organizations in the Pacific, JTF-HD maintains situational awareness, helps coordinate implementation of a comprehensive Critical Infrastructure Protection Program across the JOA, and when required, coordinates and provides DoD resources to help save lives and prevent great property damage.

Category: Deployed Forces, News

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