Clay County Authorities Better Prepared for Bioterrorism - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Piggott, AR -- Kathy Morris Reports

Clay County Authorities Better Prepared for Bioterrorism

July 27, 2004 -- Posted at: 10:45pm CDT

PIGGOTT, AR - A group of Piggott, Paragould and Jonesboro emergency responders spent Tuesday evening decontaminating victims of a mock hazardous material drop. Organizers started working on the exercise 6 months ago. They went through it on paper 2 months ago. Tuesday, the live drill started around 6:00pm when authorities were alerted that a toxic powder had been dispersed, and victims needed their help.

"The scenario is Rican has been spread on the softball field," explained Brian Nagy, the bioterrorism coordinator for the local hospital. "We've had some people contaminated. We have 6 victims here on the field."

Rican is a poison that is distributed as a powder, mist or a pellet. In this incident, a powder had been dropped from a crop duster. An amount as small as a pin head can be fatal.

Nagy added, "We may never have a terrorism event, but we could have a train derailment, or something that has some type of chemical on it, and we need to be prepared for that kind of incident."

A decontamination area was set up near the softball fields.

Eddie Brown, Paragould Fire Chief said, "It's a great opportunity to work with Piggott and some of the other departments and making sure our equipment works together, and when we come, Jonesboro and Pargould, we'll come with a small amount of man power, and then we're gonna depend on their folks to work with us, so this is a great chance to do cross training."

Victims were acting as if they were coughing and having trouble breathing. They were instructed to remove their clothes, and they were sprayed down with water. Their clothes were sealed in plastic bags.

About 100 feet from where the incident occurred 2 areas were set up. A green flag marked the staging area. That is where media, ambulance workers and other people would be placed. A blue marker is for incident command. A blowing breeze determines where those 2 areas are placed.

Victims were taken to the hospital, where 6 others showed up. Federal grant money makes the yearly drills possible, and the threat of terrorism makes them a necessity.

"We're gonna try to film both areas, so that we can see things that we might have done wrong and that we might be able to improve on, and better serve our community," said Nagy.

Hazardous materials specialists from five northeast Arkansas counties, including many of those who trained in Piggott, will participate in a 9.5 hour drill on August 6th. It will take place at the Walnut Ridge airport.

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