May 6, 2012: Operation Medicine Delivery

A test of the use of postal teams to deliver emergency medicine.

On May 6, U.S. Postal Service volunteers made an unusual Sunday morning run through selected Twin Cities neighborhoods. Their mission: Leave a simulated supply of medicine – in the form of an empty pill bottle – at each mailing address.

This event was part of a test called Operation Medicine Delivery. The purpose was to see how fast postal teams could deliver medicine to homes in an emergency.

The May 6 event was only a test! There was no reason to believe that a real emergency would happen that day or that one was imminent.

A plan for using the postal service to deliver emergency medicine in the Twin Cities has been in place since early 2010. The Postal Plan is a joint project of MDH, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, the U.S. Postal Service, and local public health, law enforcement and emergency management agencies.

This was the first “real world” test of the Postal Plan in Minnesota. Here are a few facts about the Postal Plan – and the May exercise:

  • Photo of medicine bottle that will be delivered.The simulated emergency medicine was delivered by teams of postal service volunteers and law enforcement officers in regular postal service vehicles.
  • The medicine bottles were delivered to approximately 37,000 mailing addresses in four Twin Cities ZIP codes:
    • 55101 (St. Paul – Downtown)
    • 55102 (St. Paul – West 7th/Fort Road)
    • 55411 (Minneapolis – North Side)
    • 55422 (Portions of Robbinsdale, Golden Valley and Crystal)
  • The bottles were delivered to residential mailing addresses only – not to post office boxes or business locations.
  • People who receive the bottles didn't need to do anything – just recycle the empty bottle.
  • The idea of using postal delivery teams to deliver emergency preventive medicine has also been tested, on a limited basis, in Boston, Philadelphia, and Seattle.
  • This was the first metro area in the country to recruit a full complement of postal volunteers for the program, and set up a fully developed postal delivery system.
  • Over 300 postal workers were recruited and trained for the Postal Plan in the Twin Cities metro area.
  • The postal delivery plan is part of a larger public health preparedness program known as the Cities Readiness Initiative.
  • The Cities Readiness Initiative helps communities prepare for public health emergencies where it may be necessary to get medications and vaccines to people quickly.
  • For example, if there were a bioterrorist attack using anthrax, it would be necessary to get people started on antibiotics within 48 hours. The Cities Readiness Initiative is designed to help do that.

What if we had a real emergency?

  • In a real emergency, it might be necessary to get medicine to as many as 3.2 million people in the metro area.
  • Most people would get their medicine by going to a special “medication center,” not through postal delivery.
  • Several of these centers would be set up around the metro area. Information on finding one would be available on the MDH website.
    Postal delivery might be used in some densely populated parts of town, to take pressure off of the medication centers.
  • Regardless of how people got their medicine – medication center or postal delivery – they would only get enough at first to get them started taking it.
  • Sooner or later they would need to visit a medication center to get more.
  • No one would need to worry about having enough medicine to go around. Ample supplies of antibiotics and other medicines have been set aside or stockpiled for use during an emergency.
  • The medications would be provided to the public free of charge.

Updated Tuesday, April 02, 2013 at 09:38AM