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Storm revealed glitch in preparedness

The October snowstorm that blanketed Buffalo with nearly 2 feet of snow unmasked a glitch in the state's emergency preparedness system.

When health officials activated the state's reserve of medical personnel, extra nurses were sent to Buffalo within hours -- but other medical personnel, including respiratory therapists and nursing assistants -- were not dispatched.

While the lack of the additional medical staff isn't believed to have caused any problems, it is one of several situations now under review by state health officials as they try to develop an effective and comprehensive emergency plan in the face of a major public health crisis.

"It's one thing to say, 'Here's our plan.' It's another thing to do it," said Robert Burhans, director of public health preparedness for the state Health Department.

State officials have been reviewing what went right and wrong during disasters in the state over the past year to help formulate their plan.

They have also been conducting drills, such as quick mass vaccinations, to try to simulate what would need to be done in the event of a pandemic flu.

Officials are still trying to come up with a plan for dealing with the homebound and other hard-to-reach populations.

"Those are challenges we continue to face," said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Anthony Billittier IV. "[For] some of the stuff, we may never come up with good answers."

e-mail: citydesk@buffnews.com

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