City amends emergency plan to accommodate flu pandemic

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 21, 2008

FRANKLIN—Should the need arise, the city of Franklin and Southampton County can now be better prepared in the presence of a pandemic flu epidemic.

The City Council adopted an addition to the emergency operations plan on Monday evening after hearing a presentation by Chief of Emergency Services Vince Holt. The Southampton County Board of Supervisors adopted its own addition to its plan at the end of March.

Holt said Councilman Charles Wrenn had questioned the ability of the plan’s health section to address issues in the event of a flu epidemic. This took place in July 2006 after discussions had gotten under way to update the entire emergency plan.

&uot;We came to the conclusion that the current health section of the plan would not properly address those issues,&uot; said Holt.

Wrenn began chairing a committee dedicated to studying the issue, and a group of officials from both localities, representatives of Southampton Memorial Hospital and the Virginia Department of Health formed the following November.

The pandemic committee further established two subcommittees, family preparedness and public awareness/education; and planning, coordination and implementation.

While the family preparedness group was responsible for circulating information and giving presentations to civic and church groups to heighten awareness, the planning group focused on municipal response — from what to do if the hospital is overwhelmed with patients, to how the city would operate with a high percentage of absenteeism.

According to Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson, the county’s plan concentrates mainly on response to the avian flu.

According to projections based on 2004 population data, Southampton County could expect 129 influenza-related deaths during a six-month period. Franklin might see 62.

As the addition was being drafted, according to Holt, the city realized that the schools didn’t have guidelines to specifically address a flu emergency on that grand of a scale.