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If you can, make time to join the exercise, get your free swag and pitch in for emergency preparedness

The Crook County Health Department has presented community agencies, businesses and residents with an interesting proposal, all in the name of emergency preparedness. Will a decent group of us be willing to take some time out of the work week to play sick?

OK, technically that is not what they are asking us to do, but it's not far from the truth. In an effort to prepare Crook County leaders and residents for a potential widespread and dangerous ailment, for which no prior vaccines have been administered, they are conducting a full-scale exercise.

Tuesday, June 4, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the health department and multiple local partners will ask people to drive down to the Crook County Fairgrounds, pass through a simulated medical center and receive "medication" in the form of emergency preparedness gift bags.

They have set aside 1,000 gift bags for adults and 500 for youth, so clearly they hope for a strong turnout. To sweeten the deal, they will enter participants in a raffle for a three-day emergency pack.

It doesn't take too much thought to figure out that if they get the turnout they want, people will be sitting in a pretty long line going into and out of the fairgrounds. And yes, taking time out of the middle of the workday isn't always easy to do and might be a tough sell for an employer who is not on board with the exercise. Simply put, this is not exactly convenient.

But that doesn't mean that community members shouldn't participate. That doesn't mean that businesses shouldn't find a way to let their staff members join the exercise. As Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Vicky Ryan points out, real emergencies don't wait the most perfect or most convenient time to occur. They could happen during the workday or the middle of the night when most people are fast asleep or at another "bad time."

It's not unlike fire drills or safety training seminars. Sure, they take away from time that could be spent getting work done, but without them, people would be grossly underprepared if something bad happens.

The entire duration of the exercise is only four hours — which is actually a small slice of the time compared to the amount of time a real medication distribution effort would last. Furthermore, those running the exercise are trying to get people through the line as quickly as possible — they are timing themselves to see how fast they can do it — so the big line might move fairly quickly.

More importantly, strong participation in such an exercise gives the health department and other local leaders a better idea of where they would excel in this scenario and where they would be deficient. That knowledge will help them improve the process should a real medical emergency strike.

So if you can, make time to join the exercise. Get your free swag and pitch in for emergency preparedness. Hopefully, a widespread disease that requires such actions never hits Crook County. But if it does, it's good to be prepared.


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