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Black Hills State University will participate in a Point of Dispensing (POD) training session March 6 to simulate an exercise to provide whatever antidote might be needed to the entire South Dakota population in a 48-hour time period in the event of a bioterrorist attack.

The Donald E. Young Sports and Fitness Center has been chosen as one of 34 POD sites across the state. Spearfish High School is the secondary site for the Northern Hills. This distribution point would be able to treat up to 50,000 people within 48 hours.

While state officials have no reason to believe such a terrorism event will occur, emergency managers and Department of Health personnel have been charged with organizing a plan which would handle any kind of event with order and speed.

Spearfish High School students will gather at the Young Center to go through each individual station twice (to increase the total number treated) for the simulated medication distribution. The goal will be to "treat" each student within an hour, in order to show that the POD is capable of handling mass quantities of people within a short time frame.

According to Wade Huntington, Public Health Regional Manager with the South Dakota Department of Health, after the events of September 11, 2001, it was apparent the state was not well prepared for terrorist attacks. In an effort to plan and prepare for such attacks the federal government required states to develop plans to address this issue.

The Spearfish POD would service the entire Northern Hills area including the communities of Sturgis, Spearfish, Lead/Deadwood, Whitewood, Belle Fourche, Newell, and all points in between. The management and operational structure of the POD is based on the Incident Command System (ICS), a system used worldwide to manage all types of incidents from major forest fires, chemical spills, accidents, and even major events such as the Olympics and Super Bowl.

“We agree the chance is remote but not preparing at all would be foolish. The Point of Dispensing (POD) emergency plan is about saving lives should the need arise. While the development is originally based on addressing needs in the event of a bioterrorism attack, the reality is POD would function well in any type of mass casualty event that would require care to a large number of people in a short period of time,” Huntington says.

“The support of the communities will be an important variable to making this plan work in a real life situation,” Huntington says. He notes that volunteers are still needed. Individuals interested in helping to staff the POD should contact Huntington at 605-347-6485 for more information.