St. Charles officer leads FBI group

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 29, 2008


Staff Reporter

GRAMERCY –Terrorists attacks, disease epidemics and natural disasters are all things the St. James School Board and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHH) took into consideration as they entered into an agreement to use a St. James School as a Strategic National Stockpile Dispensing Site.

“We plan on the different scenarios that could occur,” said LDHH official Keith Phillips. “It was actually CDC (center of disease control) developed about 10 years ago.”

Under the CDC plan central caches or medical supplies and medicines are located throughout the United States. Local dispensing sites are utilized in the case of epidemics and disaster.

According to Phillips there are 500 dispensing sites in the statewide system that can be opened to the public in the case of an emergency.

“It was utilized for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” said Phillips.

Phillips said the sites were opened in the aftermath of the hurricanes because victims stood a greater chance of contracting serious diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis.

The sites are only one half of the equation, the other half being the people to staff them.

“We do train routinely,” said LDHH Communications Officer Ken Pastorick. “By continuing our training it keeps us fresh and helps see what we need to improve on.”

In October LDHH conducted a disaster test in which they coordinated flu vaccinations with local medical volunteers throughout the state in response to a false emergency.

“We provided flu vaccines free of charge for 5-6 hours,” said Phillips.

He said the test was a success as 20,000 people were treated.

However, Phillips did add in the case of an epidemic for which they did not have a vaccine it would take six weeks to six months to develop a vaccine.

In the meantime Phillips said anti-viral medicines would be provided.

Until an occurrence happens LDHH wants to keep the site secret for safety reasons.

In the event of an outbreak LDHH plans to alert the public as to which of the schools is the dispensing center.