New York State Office of Homeland Security, State Emergency Management Office and State Health Department Hold Full Scale Health Emergency Preparedness Drill in Upstate New York

NEW YORK STATE
Office of Homeland Security
James W. McMahon
Director
Contact: Dennis Michalski
518-292-2310
Emergency Management Office
John R. Gibb
Director
Contact: Dennis Michalski
518-292-2310
Department of Health
Antonia C. Novello, M.D.
Commissioner
Contact: Robert Kenny
518-474-7354, ext. 1

June 13, 2006

New York State Office of Homeland Security, State Emergency Management Office and State Health Department Hold Full Scale Health Emergency Preparedness Drill in Upstate New York

Communicable Disease Exercise (CDEX) Involves 200 Agencies Working Together in a Coordinated State/Regional Response to a Pandemic Influenza Threat

The New York State Office of Homeland Security, the State Emergency Management Office and the State Health Department today announced that more than 200 agencies, including representatives of New York State, local governments, health care providers and international response partners are participating in an intensive, full-scale pandemic flu response exercise in Western New York. This comprehensive, coordinated response is one of the largest drills of its kind to be conducted in New York and Canada to date.

The month-long Western New York Communicable Disease Exercise (CDEX) began May 16, 2006 with a tabletop drill in Buffalo. It culminates today with a full-scale series of activities triggered by a mock, but realistic and stark scenario – the spread of pandemic influenza throughout Western New York. The exercise also incorporates cross border initiatives with Ontario's Niagara Region, as well as the Seneca Nation of Indians and the Tuscarora Nation.

James W. McMahon, Director of the State Office of Homeland Security, said, "History has taught us that a pandemic is more than a health issue.  It will affect how we as a society function economically, socially and politically. Today's exercise is an important test of the plans we have in place that will best protect the health of New Yorkers and our state's critical infrastructure to ensure continuity of operations in the event of a pandemic."

State Emergency Management Office Director John R. Gibb said, "Exercises such as today's CDEX are vital to improving the level of preparedness throughout New York State. It's through such problem-solving activities and the interaction among all levels of government, the private sector and volunteer organizations, that we can enhance our capabilities to help our fellow New Yorkers when they need it most."

"Today's exercise demonstrates our commitment to doing everything in our power to prepare for the potential for a pandemic flu in New York and the nation," State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. said. "While we hope it will never happen, it is essential to be prepared. This extraordinary collaboration among key state, regional, local, tribal and provincial response partners will further enhance New York State's readiness to respond to a major communicable disease outbreak or other serious public health threat."

The scenario describes the emergence of a novel strain of influenza and the ensuing challenges to the public health and health care systems, and emergency management agencies. It exercises the state's plan for disease surveillance and mitigation, laboratory detection, health care surge capacity, sharing of data and assets, and communication to the public to support actions and decisions that will help reduce individual risk.

In the past month, CDEX participants have conducted numerous and specific activities to meet these objectives. Today's full-scale exercise includes:

  • Activation of Emergency Operations Centers in Western New York counties, hospitals, and at the state's Emergency Operations Center in Albany.
  • Establishment of a mobilization site for receipt and distribution of essential medical supplies from state and federal stockpiles.
  • Utilization of sophisticated information technology systems to share case data and health alerts.
  • Opening a mock joint information center to deliver emergency messages to the public to increase their knowledge of developments from the pandemic and to reduce their risk of illness and death.

CDEX builds on multiple previous state and local preparedness exercises, including last November's "ProtEX NY" mass vaccination exercise in Albany, during which state Health Department staff immunized nearly 2,000 individuals in under five hours. Additional "ProtEX" NY exercises are planned for the central and metropolitan New York regions of the state this fall.

Dr. Anthony J. Billittier, Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Health and co-chair of the Western New York Public Health Alliance stated, "Over the past several weeks, we have been provided a scenario that has allowed us here in Western New York and southern Ontario to test our capabilities to respond in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. What we are learning will only enhance our ability to protect the health and safety of our citizens."

Christopher M. Szwagiel, Public Health Director of the Genesee County Department of Health and co-chair for the Western New York Public Health Alliance added, "An event such as this tests our ability to work collaboratively with every level of government and further promotes the importance of communication among area municipalities if we are to be successful in addressing a public health threat."

The Western New York Public Health Alliance is comprised of the health commissioners and directors of the eight Western New York counties working together to achieve healthier communities through surveillance, education, prevention and intervention.

For more information about pandemic influenza and health emergency response preparedness, please visit the New York State Department of Health's web site at: www.health.ny.gov.