November 11, 2004
- BIOPOD 2004 Exercise A Success
On November 11, 2004, BIOPOD 2004 completed its mission —
an exercise to ensure that all on-duty members received preventive
medicine (candy, for the exercise) in the event that a biological
This exercise consisted of 10 mobile units (Point of Distribution
units or PODs), staffed by Bureau of Health Services' employees.
These mobile units fanned across the five boroughs of NYC, commencing
at 1800 hours. The entire exercise took about 12 hours and by 0600
hours, all the POD units had returned to FDNY Headquarters (9 MetroTech
Twenty-three hundred on-duty Fire and EMS members participated
in this exercise.
The mobile Pods were staffed with the following: a Fire Officer
assigned to BHS served as the POD leader; a Firefighter served as
the vehicle driver and computer guide; a BHS Medical Officer and
a nurse or EMT/Paramedic/EMS Officer were assigned for education
and medication recommendation. Key FDNY pre-determined locations
were chosen and the vehicles were dispatched to five to 10 sites
per Division. The Borough Dispatchers directed fire units and ambulances
to each of these locations. Chief Dispatcher David Rosensweig and
Deputy Assistant Chief of Operations Joseph Pfeifer conducted the
overall control and management with the IMT (Incident Management
Team), located in the Emergency Notification Center (EOC).
Each vehicle was equipped with a laptop computer, printer and
tethered scanner. The computers had specially designed programs
to ensure that each participating member was registered. Once registered,
each member was given a group educational briefing. In this briefing,
information about biological responses was provided. Specific facts
regarding anthrax were highlighted. Each member was asked about
individual medication allergies to determine the recommended medication
in the event an anthrax exposure occurred. Each member was offered
a substitute — candy — in place of medication.
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Members of the Department of Homeland Security, who assisted in
the planning of this drill, supported the exercise. Representatives
from other agencies, such as the Department of Health and Mental
Hygiene, the Office of Emergency Management and the NYC Police Department,
observed the drill.
exercise was a tremendous undertaking with the entire on-duty membership
participating. All Divisions were represented and the few Companies
that were unable to participate were involved in active fire duty
at the time.
Drills such as this are critically important. For our Department
and other agencies, this drill serves as a learning tool. Now we
can look at the deployment of each mobile unit and evaluate the
flow through each POD site. The time stamp captured with each action
at the POD can be evaluated. From the information gathered, we can
determine if changes must be made to the program. The drill showed
that the entire on-duty work group could be mobilized, while simultaneously
ensuring maintenance of essential services to the City.
Fire and EMS units can be directed to multiple POD sites to get
medication. The plans developed and the blueprint for this exercise,
along with the After Action Report, will provide a template for
others to follow.
As each unit worked its way through the Divisions, the FDNY members
were professional, warm and gracious. Whether the BHS BIOPOD unit
arrived at 1900 or 0300 hours, the members participated with enthusiasm.
Thank you to all for the success of this exercise. Programs such
as BIOPOD 2004 are designed to help us prepare. FDNY, along with
our country, face new challenges every day. We must remain ready
to respond; we must work to protect our members as best we can.
BIOPOD 2004 was an exercise to help us maintain that readiness.
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Since 9/11, the need for mental health services has been clearly
felt. NYC provided the funding for these services through our pre-existing
CSU with the blending of FEMA money, as well as Center for Mental
Health, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Fallen
Firefighters Foundation, American Red Cross and Silver Shield funds.
This funding allowed for the expansion of locations, new programs
and additional counselors. Through this funding, more than 8000
members, as well as family members, have been able to utilize the
available programs and individual counseling.
The need for services certainly has not ended. Our FDNY members
have continued to seek counseling post-9/11. For each individual,
the time frame to seek assistance may vary. A certain event, a particular
birthday, a persistent memory may trigger a person to seek counseling.
It is critical that these services be available when most needed.
Project Liberty funding through FEMA will be ending. However,
through Federal and expected city funding, the counseling sites,
counselors and programs will continue. Members can still be seen
at the current sites: Manhattan, Fort Totten, Brentwood, Orange
County and Staten Island. Professional counselors will continue
to see members and family members at these community-based locations.
Members who need to see outside counselors can continue to be
funded through the American Red Cross, which will provide up to
32 sessions per person. The American Red Cross will provide funding
for members who officially were deployed to the WTC site, their
spouses and their children. For spouses and children, the American
Red Cross has some limitations, which will be explained to the family
member by the American Red Cross.
Questions about seeking services still remain. Let’s review
some of them.
- Counselors are professionally trained. There are choices of
counselors, both female and male. Different issues can be addressed
through individual or couples counseling.
- Appointments can be made by calling the CSU units. You can
expect to get an appointment within 24 to 48 hours. Emergency
appointments are available.
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- Counseling services in the CSU units and also with outside
counselors remain available. The counseling is confidential. You
may remain on full duty and seek counseling assistance. Issues
of grief, depression, substance abuse and family concerns can
be addressed. If outside services are recommended, referral assistance
will be taken care of by our staff.
As we enter the holiday season with its inherent stresses, it is
clear that counseling services must remain available. It remains
our priority to keep these services intact and accessible to our
members. Barriers to getting help have been removed with our initial
FEMA funding through Project Liberty. Continued funding will maintain
the programs, the sites and the counselors to keep our members healthy.
Stay well and safe.
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Dr. Kerry Kelly
Chief Medical Officer
Dr. David Prezant
Deputy Chief Medical Officer
Director, FDNY CSU
Mary T. McLaughlin
Director, FDNY BHS