State and local health officials are working on their "battle rhythm" as they prepare for the possibility of bombs, bedbugs and general bedlam at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
"We are going to nail down our battle rhythm for every day," said Rodger Amon, incident commander for the Games. (He's also the chief operating officer for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.)
An array of public agencies, from local health departments to the state health department and emergency management operations, have been talking to one another for years, envisioning worst-case scenarios and how to combat any health emergencies that might arise.
"Nothing is going to get past us," said Jessica DuMaurier, team leader for epidemiology and preparedness for the health department, during a recent meeting where plans for WEG were being fine-tuned.
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A group of health officials started to meet monthly three years ago, said Kevin Hall, spokesman for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. Those meetings became weekly and now, as the Games approach, dozens of people are working daily behind the scenes to monitor potential hazards unique to WEG, which will draw people from around the United States and the world.
"If you do the work upfront, you shouldn't have any worries," said Amon.
A few items on their long list of things to be ready for, just in case:
■ Getting information to local physicians about how to correctly treat exposure to chemicals or radiation from a bomb.
■ Training parks and recreation staff members to be on the lookout for suspicious packages that could be dangerous and creating a protocol for what to do if such packages re found.
■ Checking the temperature of food as it is unloaded at the Kentucky Horse Park as part of ongoing health inspections for the 55 to 65 vendors who will be at the Games.
■ Monitoring the health of several hundred horse grooms who will be living in close quarters to keep an eye out for any outbreak of an infectious disease.
And for every big issue — like where to shelter Kentucky Horse Park visitors should a microburst storm blow through — there are dozens of details that have to be taken care of. How do staff members get from point A to point B? What's the deadline for updated reports that eventually will be part of the governor's daily briefing on the Games by Brig. Gen.John W. Heltzel, director of Kentucky's Division of Emergency Management? What kind of bike, exactly, would be best to use for couriers at the park? Maybe, most critical, what's for breakfast?
("Food is always an issue," said Amon.)
The group sometimes lapses into its own language that is Greek to outsiders. For example, "Is the epi going to be in the DOC?" translates to "Is the epidemiologist going to be stationed for the day at the department operations center located at the health department?"
That is as opposed to "the epi being in the SOC" or at the site operations center at the Horse Park.
But all concerned seem to understand.
The group also is responsible for explaining local health laws, such as restrictions on smoking and drinking, to visitors, and providing them will information about available health services.
To that end, the health department will be staffing a help line starting Sept. 24 and distributing booklets with health information ranging from how to deal with mosquitoes to how to get a prescription filled.
Hall said experience gained last year in dealing with the huge demand for information about H1N1 served them well when creating the help line. Plus, he said, WEG provides a unique opportunity to prepare for a sustained health emergency such as an ice storm or severe tornado.
While health officials frequently run simulations, "There are only so many times we can practice without taking to the field," Hall said.
"We can go out and get real world experience," he said.
WEG will certainly give them that.