Disaster on Campus: YSU Holds Anthrax Response Drill Friday

By Graig Graziosi

Friday, Youngstown State University nursing faculty and students will battle to save the victims of a mock anthrax attack.

This staged emergency is a collaboration between the YSU nursing department, the YSU Health Clinic and the Mahoning Valley Board of Health to gauge the college’s ability to respond to an emergency on campus.

Several nursing and clinic faculty members, as well as 93 nursing students, will participate in the drill.

Molly Roche, RN, an instructor in the nursing department, is helping coordinate the event alongside YSU Health Clinic Wendy Thomas, RN, in hopes that YSU will become a “closed unit dispensary”.

“Being a closed unit means we’d basically be taking care of ourselves with the Board of Health as support. In a real situation Wendy Thomas and I would be setting it up and working with volunteers independently [at YSU],” Roche said.

Acting as a closed unit dispensary would provide YSU faculty and students with quick and local access to treatment in the event of an emergency, but the benefits extend beyond the boundaries of the university.

Joseph Diorio, the Mahoning County Board of Health’s director of community health, sees the benefits of the drill as a matter of numbers.

“If we had to dispense [treatment] as a health department to everyone in Mahoning County — let’s say for the sake of discussion the population is 250,000 — if YSU said they were going to act as a closed pod and let’s say they hypothetically have a population — students, faculty, family, et cetera — of 50,000, then YSU takes care of their own population and that’s 50,000 people less that [the Board of Health] has to take care of,” Diorio said.

Beyond the benefits to the campus and the community, the students participating in the program will have the opportunity to use the skills they’ve been training for in class.

“[The drill] is certainly geared primarily towards educating students for when they become nurses about community health and community health points of dispensing — just preparedness in general so when the nurses do graduate they’ll have the drill in their backgrounds. The second objective is to help YSU faculty and staff know how to set a point of dispensing up if they need to in the event of an emergency,” Diorio said.

Adam Depp, a junior nursing student participating in the drill, is looking forward to the event, despite having little information as to what scenarios he and other students will be facing.

“I’m pretty excited. My training doesn’t exactly relate to disasters, but patient care and safety are universal,” Depp said. “Obviously you want to help the most people in the most need … even though [an anthrax scare] is a different circumstance, your mindset should be the same.”

While nursing students will make up the bulk of the participants, representatives from other YSU organizations will be present, including YSU Police Department Lieutenant Randy Williams, who will help simulate a law enforcement presence during the drill.

Roche hopes to continue participating in emergency drills and intends to expand the inclusion of on campus participants to disciplines outside the nursing program.


“I would like to have [drills] be kind of an annual thing so we can get more students involved and hopefully have more volunteers,” she said.

While the drill is meant to help train participants in overall emergency response preparedness, there was intention behind the selection of anthrax as the central threat for the event.

“The health department chose anthrax, I think because they’ve had some experience with scares in the past but also because it’s something a lot of people know about and it’s reasonable for us to treat on campus,” Roche said.

Though the drill will most likely only ever serve as an experiential training tool for the nursing students, Roche is glad to finally bring an event to campus.

“We’re hoping to never need it but we’d like to be prepared in case something ever happened,” she said.