Slew of Ind. agencies test anthrax response

Post office tests anthrax response: About a dozen organizations participated in city's first drill
By Jeff Wiehe
The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — A slew of local and state agencies gathered Thursday at the main post office on Clinton Street to test their response in the event of an anthrax scare.

With decontamination stations and a clinic set up like a long assembly line, biohazard workers led Postal Service employees through the disaster drill, mimicking what they would do in a real emergency.

"It's the first drill of its kind conducted here," said John Silcox, spokesman for the Allen County-Fort Wayne Health Department. "It's important to determine if there are any gaps in our process or if there's anything we need to improve upon."

At about 1:15 p.m., the post office's $150,000 Biohazard Detection System picked up a fake anthrax reading among the almost 275,000 pieces of mail that comes through the Clinton Street office daily. An alarm sounded, and the drill was on.

Post office employees who had volunteered for the assignment reported to certain designated areas in the building while HazMat workers donned biohazard suits designed to shield them from harm. The employees who have might have been exposed stripped off their clothes (they reportedly wore swimsuits Thursday before donning hospital gowns, though normally all clothes would have to go) and prepared themselves for a decontamination shower in a custom-built semi-truck.

They were given biohazard suits to wear and were driven to a clinic where they would receive an antibiotic needed to fight anthrax. It would be the first pill in a five-day course, Silcox said. After taking the antibiotic, they would be able to leave the clinic because anthrax contamination is not spread from person to person.

The Fort Wayne Fire Department, Allen County Sheriff's Department, Fort Wayne Police Department, the Fort Wayne-Allen County and Indiana State departments of health, Allen County-Fort Wayne Homeland Security, Three Rivers Ambulance Authority, Citilink, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and U.S. Postal Service participated in the drill.

Copyright 2007 Fort Wayne News-Sentinel

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