National Guard Drills to Quell Flu Riots

by Admin on August 20, 2009

Not to second guess National Guard Commanders, but you just hate to see stories like this one. Well meaning, but poorly informed managers often place a higher priority on security when preparing for an emergency response than will ever be needed.

For this “scenario” to ever happen, we’d need for lots and lots of things to go wrong this Fall. First of all, Swine Flu H1N1 would have to mutate into a much more lethal form, generating large numbers of deaths. Then we’d have to have a vaccine that was effective but in short supply. Then you’d need for the public to become so frightened that they decided to attack an escorted convoy to try to obtain the vaccine.

Do you see where this is going? Pretty soon, you’re looking at a “Mad Max” view of the world. The public rarely, if ever panics. It did not happen in Katrina, despite some of the early media accounts.

Instead of planning and exercising for these worst case scenarios, how about focusing on the more likely ones? Have those Guardsmen drill on setting up drive thru POD’s, and assisting with traffic control. Considering the limited resources available for drills and exercises, it’s hard to see the wisdom in the decision to hold this drill.

Making it worse is that by doing so, you make the public think that such riots are possible or even likely to happen. This ramps up the fear of the pandemic and does little to help with public communication efforts.

National Guard drill at high school to prepare for possible H1N1 riot

By Leslie H. Dixon, Staff Writer
Published: Aug 13, 2009 1:46 am

PARIS — Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School will be the site of a National Guard riot control drill Thursday morning to prepare in the event of a panic over distribution of serum to treat the swine flu.

The school on Route 26 at the Paris-Norway town line has been designated by state officials as a distribution site for the H1N1 flu vaccine. The drill is to prepare for a worst-case scenario should the serum have to be transported from Augusta and people rush to get it.

On Thursday morning, four or five National Guard Humvees will travel from Augusta to Paris with vials of fake serum. The National Guardsmen will take on the roles of panicked citizens and military police and practice what they would do, such as using tear gas, in the case of a riot.

“This is just a component of moving the stuff from point A to B,” said Oxford County Emergency Management Agency Director Scott Parker. The plan will be put into place only if needed, he said.

Plans were developed in April to have vials of serum sent from the federal government to Augusta, Parker said. From Augusta, the supplies will be transported to designated distribution centers.

During the April conference, concerns were raised about a possible out-of-control rush on the serum, Parker said. Because of that concern, Gov. John Baldacci and Gen. John Libby, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, agreed that a plan should be devised to quell such a disturbance.

Local police chiefs have also been involved in the planning, Parker said. In a real event, local police would be in charge of security once the serum arrives in Paris. “We own it. We’re in charge of providing security,” he said.

As of Aug. 5, the Maine Center for Disease Control said there had been 323 confirmed cases of H1N1 in Maine, of which 176 are Maine residents and the rest out-of-staters diagnosed in Maine. A total of 19 people required hospitalization. Sixty percent of the victims were under the age of 25.

On Tuesday, health authorities reported Maine’s first death from the H1N1 virus. Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, said a York County man in his 50s was hospitalized for three weeks and died last week of underlying conditions complicated by H1N1.

The drill will take place behind the school and will not affect the day-to-day activities within the school. Access to the school building will be available through the main entrance, Parker said.

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