Emergency officials plan for worse; don’t expect it

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 12, 2001

As the U.S. continues its war on terrorism, Brookhaven andLincoln County emergency services leaders say they are prepared inthe event of problems here.

Civil defense, law enforcement, fire, hospital and healthofficials met Wednesday to discuss emergency planning and the needfor heightened awareness following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacksin New York and Washington.

“One of the things we all need to do from the ground up is bemore aware,” said Clifford Galey, Lincoln County Civil Defensedirector.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Brookhaven Fire Chief Paul Cartwright expressed similarsentiments.

“We don’t want people to overreact, but . . . we’re going towant to look at something more closely than we did two months ago,”said Cartwright, who also stressed the importance of goodcommunications between emergency services personnel.

Galey agreed.

“If anybody gets anything, we need to work together,” Galeysaid.

One example of good cooperation that Galey cited was a recentZetus Road incident where a resident received a suspicious blueenvelope that she thought could possibly contain a chemical agent.Galey said it took over four hours for health, civil defense andlaw enforcement officials to determine the envelope washarmless.

“Everybody that was involved handled it well. . .,” Galey said.”Had it been real, the system worked.”

For dealing with emergency situations, Galey said officials haveplans to cover most all contingencies. However, specifics of theplans will not be made public.

“We’re going to do our best to take care of it,” Galey saidabout emergency response.

In discussing the secrecy of plan specifics, Galey mentioned anAtlanta abortion clinic bombing that was made worse because theperson knew emergency situation parameters. A second bomb was setoff and more people were hurt because plan specifics wereknown.

For reasons like that, Galey indicated personnel stay alert andcautious when responding to an emergency.

“We still go and do what we need to do, but we’re very consciousof the surroundings,” Galey said.

In the event of an attack, hospitals would play a key role inthe response. Galey told officials Wednesday the Center for DiseaseControl is not recommending that hospitals stockpile any specificdrugs.

“If every hospital did that, we’d have a shortage,” Galeysaid.

Phillip Grady, King’s Daughters Medical Center CEO, said thehospital is prepared in the event of an emergency.

“We have an effective disaster plan that we test on an on-goingbasis,” said Grady, mentioning the most recent test that simulatedchemical injuries at a local industry.

Grady said KDMC is staying in contact with the American HospitalAssociation and keeping abreast of procedures for handling varioussituations. Also, he said state and federal emergency managementagency plans are in place for providing the hospital withadditional resources if needed.

Rumor control was a concern for some emergency officials.

One persistent rumor lately has involved crop dusters flyingover the area. Galey said he has been unable to determine theorigin of the flights, but he is continuing to investigate.

Citing conversations with law enforcement officials, Galeysought to downplay rumors of possible attacks.

“There’s a lot of rumors and a lot of possibilities, but rightnow there are no immediate threats,” Galey said.

Galey and other officials also said they had received a numberof calls regarding gas masks.

For the masks to be effective, Galey said they would have to beworn 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also there are a variety offilters for preventing specific chemical agents, and they wouldhave to be changed as needed.

“It’s just not feasible because of the simple fact you don’tknow when or what could be happening,” Galey said, adding thattreatments are available for dealing with any kind of chemicalattack.

While officials are prepared for an emergency, they indicatedWednesday that chances of an attack here seem remote.

“I would think the people who would do something would want alarger impact than what they could get from a rural area likethis,” Galey said.