How would emergency management and public health officials handle a catastrophe that taxed local supplies of vaccines or medical equipment? Since 1999, the federal government has had a way to help: the Strategic National Stockpile.
The stockpile consists of warehouses that contain medicines — both those that prevent the onset of an illness and those that can treat illnesses — and medical supplies and equipment. It is not meant to be the first line of defense, but rather to supplement resources when state and local supplies run short.
“The underlying premise of the Strategic National Stockpile is to respond to primarily chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear events,” said Greg Burel, director of the Division of Strategic National Stockpile at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “We also hold material that would be useful in an influenza event.”
The exact number of warehouses, the contents and the locations are not made public, though the CDC’s website describes the contents as “antibiotics, chemical antidotes, antitoxins, life-support medications, IV administration, airway maintenance supplies and medical/surgical items.”
“There are multiple locations across the country,” Burel said. The sites are selected after considering factors such as population density, the availability of major transportation hubs and risk factors like natural disasters. “We try to balance products in a way across these warehouses to get the most rapid distribution anywhere in the country we need to get to.”
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