San Mateo County emergency response teams will conduct a countywide exercise April 17 to simulate the mass distribution of medicine during a major health emergency.

From 9 p.m. to noon, community emergency response teams practice delivering large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to residents in their cities, officials said. In partnership with the San Mateo County Health System, volunteers and agencies throughout the county will assess their readiness to provide timely emergency assistance in the event of a major health emergency.

The drill, known as the Silver Dragon VIII Emergency Exercise, will test the health system's ability to partner with police, fire, Red Cross and emergency crews to quickly distribute medicine from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Strategic National Stockpile. Health crises such as pandemic influenza, food or waterborne illness, or the release of a bio-agent would necessitate the timely, multiagency response, officials said.

During the exercise, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT.) will hand out informational material in place of medicine to test door-to-door distribution as realistically as possible, Pacifica police Capt. Joe Spanheimer said. The results of the exercise will be shared with other health agencies.


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CERT. teams will try to improve on their time from last year's exercise, when they visited 14,000 homes countywide, said Robyn Thaw, spokeswoman for the San Mateo County Health System. To test its mobile kitchen, San Mateo Medical Center's food service staff will prepare food for volunteers as it would in the event of an emergency.

Agencies participating in the exercise include police, fire and emergency crews from Pacifica, Brisbane, Daly City, Foster City, San Mateo, San Carlos, Redwood City, South San Francisco, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Millbrae. Menlo College will also have a team participating, and CalFire will be representing the San Mateo County coastside. Teams participating in the drill will be identifiable in the communities by their yellow CERT. vests and green hats.

Contact Erin Ivie at eivie@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/erin_ivie.