UCSF Agrees to Store Part of State's Cache of Disaster Medical Supplies

UCSF staff participate in an emergency response exercise as part of the University's ongoing disaster preparedness activities. The next campus disaster drill will be conducted on October 18 to test response to an earthquake.

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of stories this week as UCSF marks National Preparedness Month in September.

Two caches of essential medical supplies needed for disasters are now being stored at UCSF as a result of the state budget shortfall over the summer.

The California Department of Public Health and the Emergency Medical Services Authority had established a $139,200,000 stock of disaster medical supplies, including mobile field hospitals, alternate care site caches, ventilators and other equipment and supplies to respond to earthquakes, pandemics and other disasters. 

But as the cash-strapped state faced lingering budget woes, state officials opted not to pay the cost of storing the disaster supplies, says Christopher Jones, director of the Homeland Security Emergency Management Division for the UCSF Police Department. The supplies either had to find another home within the state, be sold or disposed. 

“The California Department of Public Health made a request to all local health departments to help find a storage location for the cache before it was lost as a life-saving resource to California in a disaster,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, neither the San Francisco Department of Public Health nor the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management had a warehouse facility to place any supplies, so a call for assistance was made.”

Recognizing the importance of the disaster medical cache to the state and to San Francisco, the UCSF Police Department and its Homeland Security Emergency Management Division worked with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to find a storage location for the Alternate Care Site caches, each of which includes 9,000 pounds of patient care equipment and supplies capable of supporting 50 patients for seven to 14 days. Expediency was of upmost importance as the clock was ticking before the state would dispose of the disaster medical supplies. Storage locations had to be identified inspected and approved quickly.

Thanks to UCSF’s Keith Braxton, director of Campus Life Services' Distribution and Storage, UCSF was able to donate space at its warehouse to store two Alternate Care Site caches. The University signed a Memorandum of Understanding with San Francisco Department of Public Health to store the supplies, Jones said.

An Alternate Care Site (ACS) is a cache of more than 300 different medical items including IV supplies, bandages and wound management supplies, defibrillators, airway management, patient exam, patient bedding and other general medical supplies.

In the event of a mass casualty disaster, San Francisco hospitals and UCSF Medical Center may request one of the caches from the San Francisco Department of Public Health Departmental Operations Center as hospital supplies become depleted, Jones said. 

When hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties, supplies are depleted, and disaster assistance has to arrive from across the state and nation. The ACS caches will be critical life-saving resources to San Francisco in the aftermath of an earthquake. 

As September is National Preparedness month, Jones reminds the UCSF community to take the steps at home and at work to be prepared for disasters. 

This is just one example of how the UCSF Police Department, its Homeland Security & Emergency Management Division, and member departments of UCSF’s Emergency Operations Center are helping UCSF become more prepared, he said.