When Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast in October, emergency supplies to treat injuries from falling objects and water-borne illnesses were quickly sent to New York City.
These medical supplies came from the Strategic National Stockpile, a 15-ton arsenal of pharmaceuticals, surgery kits, antibiotics and other equipment maintained by the federal government. The supplies are stored in 12 confidential locations around the country and, in case of a disaster, can be moved to any community within 48 hours.
Including Hernando County.
According to Nina Mattei, emergency manager and trainer for the Hernando County Health Department, enough medical supplies to treat the approximately 172,000 Hernando County residents would be available within 48 hours.
The large-scale operation has a simple concept: move in medicine quick if needed.
"It's a pretty big job, so we partner with other agencies that pass out antibiotics on our behalf," Mattei said.
Mattei said the focus has been preparing Hernando County for an anthrax outbreak or similar biological attack.
Mattei said the health department is interested in training volunteers, local businesses and neighborhood volunteers to assist the distribution, so essential services can keep running smoothly during a crisis, such as a terrorist attack. Local schools, hospitals and other organizations are already partnering with the health department.
Because the medical supplies are sent in after a disaster, volunteers are not required to store any inventory.
Mattei said the SNS always has a fresh supply of medicine and other aid because the government rotates through the stockpile. The government also has agreements with pharmaceutical companies that pledge to always have a specific amount of antibiotics or other supplies on hand.
The stockpile has existed since the late 1990s, when the federal government allocated funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The stockpile is managed by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Individuals and businesses interested in more information on disaster training can call Nina Mattei at (352) 540-6822.