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CDC gives Niagara County 5th perfect score for emergency preparedness

LOCKPORT – It’s one thing to get a perfect score on a test, but doing it five years in a row is something special.

The Niagara County Health Department knows that feeling, because the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has given the county a perfect 100 percent score for emergency preparedness – again.

For five consecutive years, the CDC has found nothing to criticize about the way the county plans for a disaster that would require rapid distribution of medicine to all county residents.

Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton said the CDC “looks for something they can improve on. For five years, they haven’t been able to do that.”

“This is one more time Mr. Stapleton hits a home run out of the park,” said County Legislator W. Keith McNall, R-Lockport.

But Stapleton isn’t the only one involved in the county’s participation in the Cities Readiness Initiative, as the federal government calls it.

“This program began after the anthrax incidents,” said Elaine Roman, director of public health emergency preparedness, referring to the mailing of toxic spores to a few targets in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Although initially designed as a response to biological terrorism, the county’s plan could be used for any sort of medical emergency.

Depending on the national stockpile of vaccines and medicines isn’t good enough, since the CDC allows it to be considered as no more than 5 percent of the county’s response plan.

“We have to take care of ourselves during the first 72 hours,” Roman said.

“She’s unbelievably dedicated. She’s tireless,” Stapleton said.

Roman set up a countywide network of 31 “points of dispensing,” or PODs for short. That’s where the public is to be directed in case of a major disaster requiring broad distribution of medication.

In various exercises and tests the Health Department has conducted over the years, the POD people have included a wide range of volunteers, from students to legislators. Stapleton said every one of the roughly 100 Health Department employees has been trained to handle some role at a POD.