Leaders discuss plans in event of bird flu pandemic

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 1, 2006

Local emergency officials and community leaders gathered Tuesdayto devise a plan of response should a major pandemic strike thearea.

In the wake of the bird flu pandemic sweeping through manycountries across the world and the president’s recent declarationof a federal plan of response, local officials met to decide anappropriate course of action here.

“We’re not preparing for what is here, only what could be,” saidLincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey. “There is nosign of the bird flu in this country at this time.”

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The informal question and answer exercise was designed as an”eye-opener” to show the problems that could develop in aninfluenza pandemic, Galey said.

“There were a lot of questions. Some were answered and some werenot,” he said. “I hope our local officials will go out and researchthose which were not.”

The county’s established disaster plan is flexible enough thatit could be used in the event of a pandemic, but it’s always bestto prepare for any possible contingency and devise alternatives tofit each situation, Galey said.

A pandemic could possibly isolate residents in their homes toprevent the spread of the virus, Galey said. Therefore, in manyways, a pandemic could resemble conditions immediately afterHurricane Katrina ripped through the lower portion of the state,with long lines for gas and at retailers for supplies.

Many of the tasks performed to prepare for a hurricane will workin the event of a pandemic, Galey said. Conditions, though, mayforce longer isolations.

“We used to tell people to prepare for hurricanes for three daysand since Katrina we’ve been saying five to seven days, but for aninfluenza pandemic it could be three to four weeks,” he said.

Any county plan would eventually have to be tweaked toaccommodate federal response plans, Galey said.

“Our government has a plan and it will trickle down to where thefederal response plan will coordinate with the local responseplan,” he said.

The planning session included representatives from most of theemergency services, law enforcement agencies, elected officials,private and public schools, home health agencies, business leadersand the American Red Cross.