Press Release

June 15, 2005


St. Louis area conducts Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) exercise

SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services conducted a joint emergency response Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) exercise today at several locations throughout the St. Louis area. The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate and improve the region’s ability to save lives after a bioterrorist attack. In the event of a bioterrorist attack or large-scale crisis, state and local public health agencies must be prepared to quickly distribute mass quantities of lifesaving pharmaceuticals, antidotes, vaccines and other medical supplies to approximately 2.7 million people in the St. Louis area, which includes residents in Missouri and Illinois. The Missouri and Illinois state health departments, nine local public health agencies in both states, and three hospitals joined forces to test their plans for mass distribution of these medications to the public.

“This is an example of the important work that is being done to protect the citizens living and working on both sides of the river,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Illinois state public health director. “Working together as a team, sharing resources and information is essential when developing and implementing a successful preparedness plan.”

The federal government established the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) program to deliver large and continuous quantities of medical items to the site of a national emergency within 12 hours. During an emergency, state, local and private stocks of medical material could be depleted quickly. Therefore, the SNS Program stands ready for immediate deployment to any U.S. location in the event of a national emergency. Each 12-hour push package contains an assortment of medical products to help in a variety of possible biological, chemical or nuclear terrorism events.

“We share a joint mission of protecting our citizens during an emergency, and today’s efforts illustrate how important it is that we continue working together and building these partnerships,” said Julia M. Eckstein, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. IDPH not only tested its ability to receive, repackage and distribute the Strategic National

Stockpile 12-hour push package, but the local public health agencies practiced how to quickly dispense these medications to the public. In addition, the exercise reached across state lines to include all St. Louis area residents. Three area hospitals also participated and provided mock medications to their first responder staff and/or hospital staff and volunteers.

Each SNS 12-hour push package weighs about 50 tons and is packed in over 100 specialized cargo containers. A 12-hour push package fills a wide-body aircraft. Today’s exercise used a simulated push package consisting of 18 specialized cargo containers. More than­­­­ 300 state and local public health employees and a large number of hospital staff and volunteers took part in today’s activities.

Today’s exercise is part of the nation’s Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) to better prepare metropolitan areas for the possible distribution of an aerosolized biological agent over a wide geographic urban area. St. Louis was chosen by CDC as one of 21 cities that must be prepared for such a scenario within 48 hours.

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has made public safety a top priority for Illinois and the state continues to be a leader in preparedness and response. Last year, Illinois retained the nation’s highest rating (“Green”) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to manage the Strategic National Stockpile. The state is also involved in the Chem-Pack project, an initiative geared toward raising preparedness efforts related to responding to chemical or nerve agent terrorist attacks. Illinois distributed the chem-packs last fall to hospitals around the state to protect in the event of a nerve agent attack. The administration has also implemented the Illinois-National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (I-NEDSS), a secure Web-based system for hospitals, doctors and other health care providers to electronically report infectious diseases. The hospital bypass system was also created under Gov. Blagojevich, which is a Web-based version of the system that provides the state with up-to-the minute information from more than 200 hospitals in Illinois on the availability of beds and other critical health care services necessary to guide the response to an act of terrorism or other public health emergencies.

“Actively testing our SNS plan is key to strengthening our overall effort to ensure the state is prepared for a bioterrorist attack and that we become aware of any possible kinks in the system before an event occurs,” said Dr. Whitaker. “When we are dealing with an area effecting two states and several cities, it is essential to identify everyone’s respective roles to make sure the necessary medicines are distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Nine local public health agencies in the St. Louis area opened dispensing sites and volunteers participated as role players and received mock medications. In Illinois, four health departments were involved in the exercise; the East Side Health District, St. Clair County Health Department, Monroe-Randolph Bi-County Health Department and Madison County Health Department.

The five local public health agencies in Missouri include the St. Louis City Health Department, St. Louis County Health Department, St. Charles County Health Department, Jefferson County Health Department and Franklin County Health Department. The Missouri Baptist Medical Center, St. Joseph Hospital in Missouri and Memorial Hospital in Belleville, Illinois also participated in the exercise and provided medications to hospital staff and volunteer patients.

In addition to the St. Louis press conference, Belleville West High School hosted a press conference to discuss the specifics of Illinois’ role in today’s exercise. Dr. Whitaker joined city and St. Clair County officials for the event.

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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