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Woodbury Public Safety begins to use influenza pandemic response plan

Swine flu. Mexican Flu. H1N1. Call it what you will, Woodbury is ready.

For the last three years the city's public safety department has been developing an emergency preparedness plan that includes a protocol for the city to follow should a pandemic influenza outbreak or similar emergency surface.

With last week's announcement regarding the confirmed case of H1N1 in Minnesota, the city is in "stage 3" of its pandemic response plan.

That doesn't mean much for the average resident, but for public safety officials it provides a sense of preparation should any sort of action need to be taken in response to the worst-case scenarios where patrol officers and emergency responders must focus on providing service and maximizing their protection against exposure.

"I'm happy to say this is a plan we've been working on for some time, because it has come in handy as of late," said Lee Vague, Woodbury Public Safety director, referring to the recent news that as of Tuesday there was one confirmed Minnesota case and a few other probable cases of the H1N1 virus or swine flu in Minnesota.

"It's something that you hope you never have to actually use, but to some degree we are looking at this plan right now with the current situation."

Coincidentally, Woodbury City Council last week during its monthly workshop meeting was briefed by public safety officials on the pandemic response plan as it is related to the current H1N1 pandemic, while the council was evaluating the city's latest round of "strategic initiatives."

Developing emergency preparedness

Emergency Preparedness is one of the city's strategic initiatives that public safety officials have been working on since 2007. The strategic initiative was developed out of response to the flooding of several neighborhoods in the October 2005 storm.

One of the specific developments that has come out of the emergency preparedness strategic initiative is a "volunteer response network" made up of local organizations who could provide aid in the aftermath of a tornado or during a flood. The city's model relies on formation of a network of already established volunteer groups at churches and organizations like the Boy Scouts.

The volunteer response network is not part of the city's influenza pandemic outbreak plan.

The goal of the pandemic plan is to minimize exposure to city employees so the city can continue to function during various stages of a pandemic, said J.B Guiton, the city's emergency medical services coordinator.

Currently the city is in contact with the Minnesota Department of Health on the latest developments surrounding the H1N1 outbreak, which so far has seen no serious cases of the swine flu in Minnesota.

The plan also directs the public safety department to begin medical monitoring of public safety employees.

"From the public safety perspective, our first responders are the most susceptible to getting sick, because they come into contact with folks who need emergency medical attention all the time," Vague said. "We have to make sure we are maintaining a healthy staff and take precautions should it become an issue."

The city's influenza pandemic response plan has already gotten attention in the last two weeks from other municipalities, said Vague.

"We've had quite a few cities call us up and ask if we can share with them what we've developed," Vague said. "It's a topic that is of interest right now, but it's something we have been working on for awhile."

For more information on the city's response plan for an influenza pandemic, visit policeFire/emswineflu.html