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Tulsa Health Department to Conduct Food-Emergency Preparedness Tabletop Excercise

TULSA, OK – [November 20, 2013] – The Tulsa Health Department will conduct a tabletop exercise in food-emergency readiness during a workshop on Thursday, November 21 at the James O. Goodwin Health Center, 5051 S. 129 E. Ave. The exercise is intended for the agency’s food protection services and emergency preparedness and response programs to test their readiness for food-related emergencies, such as a human health emergency caused by an unintentional contamination of produce with E. coli or other pathogens.

Participants will include representatives from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Tulsa Food Advisory Council, and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. 
“As public health professionals, it is important that we remain vigilant and prepared to deal with both intentional and unintentional food hazards in a timely manner to reduce public risk and prevent illness,” said Debbie Watts, Tulsa Health Department manager of food protection services.

The Tulsa Health Department is one of 14 county/municipal agencies in the nation to receive funding to facilitate the Food Related Emergency Exercise Bundle (FREE-B) workshop for food defense and emergency preparedness and planning. The funding was provided by the Institute of Food Technologists on behalf of the FDA’s Food Defense and Emergency Coordination Staff.

The FREE-B is a compilation of scenarios based on both intentional and unintentional food contamination events. It is designed with the purpose of assisting government regulatory and public health agencies in assessing existing food emergency response plans, protocols and procedures; or,  revising current plans or developing new ones. The FREE-B tabletop is designed to allow for multiple jurisdictions and organizations (medical community, private sector, law enforcement, first responder communities) to ‘play’ with the host agency, or for an individual agency to test their own plans, protocols and procedures independently.

The FREE-B tabletop exercise takes a “whole-community” approach to preparedness, fostering cross-sector preparedness training among varying agencies for incidents through regular exercise and training, evaluation and plan revision.  In this tabletop exercise participants engage in a facilitated discussion around a specific scenario which allows for:

Cultivating professional skills by learning how to work with dynamic  teams facing critical food emergency incidents that threaten the safety of the public
Assessing readiness to effectively address a food contamination incident
Defining roles and interactions with partners
Understanding the purpose and objectives of federal, state, local and industry organizations and how each provides resources to address different aspects of food contamination scenarios, and
Taking appropriate, timely and effective steps to remediate emergency situations that are caused by intentional or unintentional acts.

The Tulsa Health Department works to safeguard public health through education on safe food handling practices and the regulation of food service establishments. THD performs more than 11,000 inspections of approximately 3,500 food service establishments annually. In addition, approximately 500 food safety training classes are conducted each year to educate restaurant employees and other food employees on food safety. For more information please visit

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