Officials conduct exercise to test Fairbanks outbreak readiness

By  | 

FAIRBANKS, Alaska Emergency responders and volunteers ran a live training exercise at UAF today as part of the 2019 Shield Alaska Exercise. The exercise works with federal, state, local and non-government agencies to see how well they can respond to a catastrophe.

Today volunteers gathered at the Hess Recreation Center on the University of Alaska Fairbanks to test their ability to distribute medicine in the event of a pneumonic plague outbreak.

"The possibility of an outbreak is real," said Doug Schrage, the UAF Fire Chief. "And should one occur, if we were to find ourselves flat footed and unable to respond, many people could be infected before we had a chance to get in front of it, so that's why we are doing this."
This exercise is part of a statewide simulation known as 'Shield' that tests the state's capability to respond to and control an emergency should one happen.

The Shield exercise is held every two years in the state and focuses on one aspect of emergency response each time. Alaska Shield 2019 is focusing the state's ability to deal with terrorist acts with biological, cyber, explosive and hostage elements.

"We actually have boxes of medications that were shipped here by the National Guard," Schrage said. "We have public health nurses, we have volunteers from UAF and we have volunteers from Lathrop high school, all working together in this system in this room to dispense these medications."

Organizers take the data from the simulations and study it to see what is working and what is not.

"We will collect and aggregate that information and use it to improve our processes and make sure we are ready to respond to an actual outbreak should one occur," Schrage said.
Students and faculty at UAF were given scenarios to act out as they went to the stations.
After the simulation, the students and staff were asked to fill out a short survey on the emergency responders.

The emergency preparedness test is also being held in other locations around the state.