Heat Wave Exercise Identifies Gaps to Improve NYC Emergency Plan

On August 5, New York City (NYC) Office of Emergency Management and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted a tabletop exercise with the Mayor’s office and about 35 additional agencies to evaluate emergency response plans to a scenario of a 10-day heat wave and electricity outage affecting a population of 400,000 people. Among the planning gaps encountered in this exercise were how people in areas without power would get access to food and essential medications. Proposed solutions to address these gaps included the use of pharmacies outside the affected area to provide medications and businesses in the affected area to provide food and other commodities.

This exercise is timely considering last year’s ruling regarding the shortcomings of the NYC’s emergency response plans to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. During emergencies, people with disabilities frequently face additional challenges accessing needed goods and services, particularly when utility and/or infrastructure disruptions impact their ability to travel or leave their home. Among the items that may be needed by affected people with disabilities would be supplies of prescription medications and medical supplies (including consumable medical supplies and durable medical equipment). Following Superstorm Sandy, response teams were used to help get needed supplies and medications to people unable to leave their homes; though it was determined that there was a need to identify at-risk populations more effectively and respond more rapidly. Download a PDF of the after action report to learn more.

Forming relationships with pharmacies could serve as an important planning step for jurisdictions to obtain the needed medications for response shelters and deployed response teams. Similar to the strategy of using pharmacies to acquire medications proposed during NYC’s tabletop exercise, other jurisdictions have developed pharmacy partnerships to help meet some of the medication needs of impacted persons during emergencies. NACCHO has recently released a policy statement describing the value of pharmacy partnerships and developed a Pharmacy Partnership Toolkit to build and maintain those partnerships.

About Raymond Puerini

Raymond Puerini, MPH, is a Senior Program Analyst on the Environmental Health, Pandemic Preparedness, and Catastrophic Response team at NACCHO. His work includes sharing best practices for the distribution and dispensing of medical countermeasures and developing policy and guidance to support strategic national stockpile responses. Twitter: @Are_You_Ray_Dy

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