Cities and counties around the nation and across the world are in a proactive mode to prepare for a possible terrorist attack. Last week, Dublin, Georgia was the focus for role-playing in a mock drill. Dublin, along with South Central Health District representing 10 counties surrounding Dublin was the scene for the exercise.
The scenario featured an anthrax attack and how the collective First Responder Community would respond and work through the disaster. The mock disaster took place at an April Fools Day parade in Dublin and resulted from environmental terrorism prompted by anger over increased industrialization of the town.
Victims who were exposed or who felt they might have been exposed were told to report to a recreation complex for triage. Local deputies from Laurens County wore body armor and carried automatic rifles while they stood guard, giving a sense of authenticity in the role-playing, as emergency personnel processed patients during the drill. From there, victims were assigned to a hospital or to Heart of Georgia Tech College where they underwent processing to begin a spectrum of antibiotics.
The purpose of the drill was to determine how quickly the disaster could be responded to as well as distribution of medicine and treatment to the public. “I think, overall, things went very well,” said Lawton Davis, head of the South Central Health District. “There was excellent participation and cooperation.” About 500 ?patients? were processed while only about 350 people took part in the mock drill. Some people went through multiple times with varying symptoms, giving responders more experience to triage.
The South Central Health District had been involved in mock emergency drills prior to last week; however, this was the first drill conducted to manage a health crisis as unwieldy as exposure to anthrax. Considering the target?rural Dublin?an anthrax attack would be pretty remote; however, officials stated that other wide-scale health threats with potential in severity would require a similar response.
Mock drills such as this one have tremendous value, and just because the area is far from a metropolitan area does not mean the potential for a health-related disaster does not exist. First Responders gain knowledge on procedure and potential reactions, both of which give experience and comfort that will be beneficial should an attack occur.
Large cities abroad are also exercising drills to determine effectiveness by their First Response personnel. Exercise Northstar V, which took place a few months ago in Singapore , was based on public transport disasters like the London and the Madrid bombings. The exercises included mock explosive devices that were detonated simultaneously in subway trains and station platforms at four train stations and on a double-decker bus. Then, a chemical agent was released, affecting an estimated 3,400 commuters who were on board subway trains that needed evacuation. The chemical attack was alleged to be saran?reminiscent of the Aum Shinrikyo attack in Tokyo ?and involved the disruption of 13 subway train stops. Mannequins were used to simulate casualties. London Metro Police and British Transit Police were asked to come to Singapore to observe the exercise and give feedback. While notification was given to the general population of the mock drill for the weekend in January, the exact date, time, and locations were not disclosed until 15 minutes before the drill commenced.
These mock drills can require from six months to a year of planning. It is time well spent that gives the fusion of many disciplines in the First Responder community experience of what an actual attack could be. It gives plans a test bed so procedures can be fine-tuned. Although it can be an inconvenience to those impacted by the drill, it is well worth the efforts to be prepared.