Severe Weather Highlights Health Department's Emergency Drill

Jan 30, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A planned emergency preparedness drill took on a heightened significance for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department Wednesday after heavy thunderstorms and strong winds rolled across the state.

The table-top exercise was focused on ensuring a continuity of operations. Health Commissioner Rice Leach says the severe weather was a good reminder of improvements that need to be made.

“Our health department is 22 percent smaller than it was and a lot of things have happened. And it’s happened in all agencies. So we’re prepared in terms of thinking about it. We’re prepared in knowing what to do. But I think we have a lot of work to do in building the kinds of partnerships that can help staff these things up when they happen.”

Dr. Leach says he wants the health department to establish better relationships with churches and community groups who could help during medical emergencies. 

An EF-0 tornado touched down in Marion County early Wednesday and there were reports scattered power outages and downed trees across central Kentucky. Still, officials know the aftermath could have been much worse.

The theme for the health department's exercise was "Glacier Maker" based on the ice storm that hit the state in 2009.

“What if you have no communications and cell phone coverage is very sparse? How do you handle that?” says Jessica Cobb, Communicable Disease Manager for the health department. “Looking at all these different weather emergencies and learning from the emergencies that we’ve had in the state can help us to plan for those different unexpected things that will inevitably come up.”

The agency is also reviewing ways to run a special needs shelter during an emergency.