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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2010

DHEC to exercise Cities Readiness Initiative preparedness

COLUMBIA – A disaster exercise at the S.C. State Fairgrounds on April 21 will test the preparedness of Columbia’s Cities Readiness Initiative program, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today.

“Columbia is the only city in our state that is part of the federal CRI program,” said Ernie Bell, director of DHEC’s Region 3 public health office, which includes Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster, Lexington, Newberry, Richland and York counties. “This initiative helps targeted cities across the country respond to a large scale bioterrorist event, and be better prepared to quickly distribute federally provided antibiotics to the public following the disaster.”

Bell said “Operation Countermeasures” will involve numerous partner agencies and organizations from across the Midlands, with a focus on evaluating emergency response procedures, identifying areas for improvement and ensuring the ability to collaborate effectively.

“Collaboration includes everything from having two-way radios that can communicate among different agencies to testing for necessary skills to back-up our partners,” he said. “It’s critical that our CRI capabilities integrate into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Strategic National Stockpile program to distribute medicines.”

Bell added that the CRI is funded through the CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant to the states, intended to boost bioterrorism preparedness and the ability to distribute antibiotics quickly to large numbers of people. For more information on the federal CRI program, visit http://www.bt.cdc.gov/cri/.

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For more information:
Suzanne Sanders – (803) 576-2854
E-mail – sandersh@dhec.sc.gov