New York City DOHMH conducts landmark emergency response exercise

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene held an emergency response exercise on Friday that was the largest no-notice exercise in city history.

The Rapid Activation for Mass Prophylaxis Exercise (RAMPEx) involved the notification and deployment of more than 1,500 staff from more than a dozen city agencies. RAMPEx also required setting up 30 temporary medication dispensing locations.

Most participants were not informed of the day or time of the exercise to more effectively test and simulate a real emergency and response.

"The NYC (Department of Health and Mental Hygiene) is responsible for developing and executing plans for the mass dispensing of life-saving medicine in response to public health emergencies," Oxiris Barbot, the first deputy commissioner of the health department, said. "This exercise demonstrates our commitment to ensuring we have the capability and resources to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers in times of crisis."

Joseph Esposito, the commissioner of the city's Office of Emergency Management, said the agencies involved in the exercise are responsible for ensuring New York City is prepared for a variety of hazards, including public health incidents and coastal storms.

"Exercises like RAMPEx help to better prepare the city's responding agencies for emergencies and keep New Yorkers safe," Esposito said.

The full-scale exercise allowed the health department to review each piece of its emergency response plan and learn of gaps that can be corrected with changes in policy or additional planning.