County drills to prepare for ebola

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Marion County Fire Rescue led a drill involving a suspected Ebola patient and three other community agencies on Friday.
“The exercise went extremely well, with the Hazmat Team performing at a very high level. We feel confident that, had it been a real scenario, our crews would have emerged safe and the public would have been protected,” said Marion County Fire Rescue EMS Chief Shari Hall.
The drill included MCFR, The Marion County Public Safety Communications Center, Munroe Regional Medical Center and the Florida Department of Health in Marion County.
As part of the drill, the Marion County Public Safety Communications Center advised MCFR crews at noon that a doctor, who had been in West Africa treating Ebola patients, called 911 reporting a fever along with other early Ebola symptoms.
MCFR’s Hazmat crew was dispatched to the mock patient’s residence in mid-level protective gear, which means none of the responders’ skin was exposed, air-filtering masks were worn and gloves were doubled. The mock patient was then transported to Munroe Regional Medical Center, where staff was able to practice the intake process for a suspected Ebola patient. The Florida Department of Health in Marion County was notified of the patient, and the MCFR Hazmat Team set up and conducted the decontamination process.
Approximately 25 staff members from MCFR and Munroe Regional Medical Center participated in the drill, which was the result of Ebola preparedness plans that MCFR began nearly a month ago after the first U.S. Ebola case was confirmed in Dallas, Texas.
After that initial planning, the Marion County Public Safety Communications Center began (and is currently) asking all medical-emergency callers if they have traveled outside the country during the past 30 days. If the answer is “yes,” call-takers also ask if that travel included West Africa. Rescue crews will be notified, and, depending on the threat-level, will wear one of two types of protective gear.
There have been no confirmed Ebola cases in Florida. However, with international touch-points such as Orlando, Tampa and Miami within close proximity to Marion County, MCFR officials felt it prudent to be proactive in developing, and testing, a plan.