In early February, the Spokane Regional Health District called two WSU College of Pharmacy faculty members into action after a county declared state of emergency closed all county roads in southern and west Spokane County due to heavy snow.

“This was about a partnership that WSU College of Pharmacy has had with the community for years,” said Dr. Colleen Terriff, associate professor of Pharmacy at WSU Spokane. “People from the community call, state the problem, and together we find a solution.”

Terriff was phoned by Spokane Regional Health District Emergency Management Coordinator John VanSant and asked to get involved in creating a plan for people who were sheltered in their home and in need of medication.

After receiving VanSant’s phone call, Terriff called Dr. Brenda Bray, clinical assistant professor at WSU Spokane whom she had worked with on other emergency situations in the past, and the two formed a plan.

“Our main role was to develop a plan to respond to the need brought on by the situation,” Bray said.

Not all pharmacies are open 24 hours a day, and with people sheltered and unable to pick up their prescriptions, Terriff and Bray were on the planning end of what to do if someone was running low on prescriptions—from a low oxygen tank to a lack of insulin medication, Terriff said.

Terriff and Bray set up a call center where people could phone in and get help.

“We only ended up getting one phone call throughout the weekend because the roads were systematically opened,” Terriff said.

One aspect that came into play when notifying pharmacies about the emergency and the call center was a fax that was sent to all pharmacies in the area.

“All pharmacies in Spokane are tied communication-wise by a blast fax,” Terriff said.

A fax was sent to notify pharmacies that they might get calls from people who were sheltered in their homes and running low on medications, Bray said. The fax also informed pharmacies about the current plans and the call center’s involvement so that they would have the most correct and up-to-date information. This was the first time the blast fax, which is overseen through the Spokane Pharmacy Association, was used in an emergency situation.