Town to hold medical emergency exercise

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — Warning, this is just a test! The town of Portsmouth will hold a medical emergency exercise next week to practice for the unlikely event of a medical pandemic or another emergency. 

The town will hold the medical emergency exercise on Thursday, April 19, from 9 a.m. to noon at Portsmouth High School, 120 Education Lane. A citizen open house is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon. 

The town, with support of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has a Medical Emergency Distribution System (MEDS) that can quickly establish a Point of Dispensing (POD) to distribute preventative medications to the entire affected population of the town in the unlikely event of a medical pandemic or other attack (such as Anthrax contamination).   

Since the town would likely have less than 12 hours to set-up a dispensing facility, it has special procedures and pre-positioned equipment for such an event. 

Although the town has designated staff members to help set-up and staff the POD, the volume of medications to be distributed will require citizen volunteers from the town to help with the process of distributing the medications in an orderly and expeditious manner. 

“We currently have a core group of town staff personnel and citizen volunteers on our list of people who are ready to help in such an emergency, but it will take many more to operate the POD to complete the entire distribution process in about 48 to 72 hours,” said Rich Talipsky, the town’s MEDS coordinator. 

No specific medical training is necessary for citizen volunteers since they would be trained on the specific details of the medical emergency, and their assigned tasks, just before public distribution commences.

The MEDS POD exercise will be held at Portsmouth High School on April 19, which coincides with the school’s spring break to not disrupt the school class schedule.

During this exercise, only the static physical set-up, rather than the entire medication distribution process, will be tested, so a large number of citizen volunteers will not be needed. 

Citizens who are interested in observing the medical distribution set-up are invited to visit the high school from 11 a.m. to noon. 

More volunteers are needed to be on the list to help during an actual emergency. A bonus for being part of the volunteer staff is that those volunteers and their families would have priority “head of the line” privileges to receive the medications to be distributed, according to town officials. 

If you would like to be on the town’s list of MEDS volunteers, please contact the Town MEDS Coordinator, Rich Talipsky at 401-643-0382 or

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