Zombie attacks have now become a campus concern.
On Monday, UM will be testing its ability to respond to a zombie outbreak. The university medical staff and students will combat the virus by distributing medical doses to stop the spread, in this case using Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish candies.
This role-play initiative will mimic the “Point of Dispensing” (POD) plan, testing the efficiency of managing and dispensing 100,000 doses of medical countermeasures that are received through the Miami-Dade County Health Department.
“The purpose of this exercise is to test our efficiency to respond in the event of some public health emergency and to dispense the proper medical doses to the UM community and their families in South Florida,” said John Pepper, the Emergency Manager at the Miller School of Medicine campus.
In the event of a public health emergency, Miami-Dade County is responsible for the setup of POD’s and medical stations around South Florida that would administer the countermeasures appropriate, given the situation.
UM has teamed up with Miami-Dade County to become a “Closed POD” site. This means the distribution of medications and supplies is targeted to a specific group of people – in this case, the UM community.
For the zombie exercise on Monday, UM’s Office of Emergency Management will work together with the Miami-Dade County Medical Reserve Corps University of Miami Response Team, which is predominantly made up of medical students from UM’s Miller School of Medicine.
“It’s definitely good practice and it gets them more involved,” Pepper said. “We want our medical students getting some new and different experiences.”
In an effort to engage the general student population in the POD exercise, UM chose to administer the PODs in the theme of a hypothetical zombie attack.
“Emergency preparedness isn’t sexy so we needed something to grab their attention,” said Scott Burnotes, director of Emergency Management. “That’s the objective with the zombies.”
The idea came from the CDC’s Zombie Preparedness Attack campaign last year. It was very successful, so UM decided to piggyback off of that, said Pepper.
“I think it’s a good idea but some people won’t take it seriously,” said junior Charles Cavalaris, who is on the pre-med track. “It could be taken lightly. Because it’s called a zombie outbreak, it sounds more like a game.”
To some degree it is a game, said Burnotes. Monday’s POD exercise is a part of an entire “Zombie U” preparedness month. In this month, the Office of Emergency Management has teamed up with Greek Life in an effort to involve more students.
“We needed a concentrated group that could meet the expectations for the first go around,” Burnotes said.
The month of “Zombie U” will be comprised of events and activities that will range from putting out a fire to basic preparedness for any emergency. Points will be administered as well as prizes. The POD exercise on Monday is, however, open to everyone.
“The point is trying to build more prepared people for any type of emergency that might happen in their lives,” Burnotes said.
University of Rhode Island’s successful zombie exercises inspired Burnotes to bring them to UM.
In the event of a future public health emergency, the proper medical doses would be distributed from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) directly to local POD sites, like the Miami-Dade County Health Department, which dispenses the doses to the closed PODs, including UM.
“The point is to have access to as many people as we can and Closed POD’s do that in a very specific way,” said Natasha Strokin, the City Readiness Initiative (CRI) coordinator for Miami-Dade County’s Health Department.
The CRI is a federally funded effort through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which prepares major U.S. cities in response to a “large-scale bioterrorist event,” as stated on the CRI website.
The SNS was created to work on a federal level in the event of a chemical or biological threat. Emergency medical stockpiles are kept at undisclosed locations throughout the United States.
Stockpiles, including vaccines, antitoxins, airway equipment and IV fluids are available within 12 hours of being requested.