FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - City and county emergency management response units teamed up with the United States Postal Service main branch in Fort Wayne on a biohazard emergency drill.
The drill, intended to simulate a possible outbreak of the anthrax bacteria, was responded to by Allen County Emergency Management and police, Allen County Health Department, Fort Wayne police and fire, Fort Wayne Community School Corporation, Three Rivers Ambulance Authority, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the United States Postal Service.
A group of volunteers served as postal workers and members of the public who came in touch with the infamous and deadly bacteria. In the drill, they were asked to remove their clothes, shower, provide health history to the Allen County Health Department and were then given an antibiotic to fight the disease.
Donna Hoffman, a community relations coordinator from Indianapolis with USPS, says machines inside distribution centers like the one in downtown Fort Wayne are set up to detect any biohazards like anthrax.
"Some of our canceling equipment is set up with this detection system, so if a letter should come through that actually has an anthrax virus in it, it detects that and it sets off the alarms and then we go into the drill mode."
That drill includes response from the aforementioned groups. The Fort Wayne Fire Department has a hazmat team dedicated to eliminating and preventing the spread of biohazards. At the post office, they do that through the set up of the decontamination zone, according to Public Information Officer Stacey Fleming. Fleming says the initial steps of disrobing and showering could be the most effective moves when it comes to preventing the spread of something like anthrax.
“What many people don’t understand is that anthrax is spore related and actually most of the contamination can be removed by just taking off the clothes. They say up to 90 percent.”
Getting the antibiotic treatment for anthrax exposure is the role of the health department. Their spokesman, John Silcox, says that if the post office does not have antibiotic treatments on site, the health department will contact the federal government for assistance.
“The federal government maintains a cache of medicines for these types of incidents in case there's an emergency. They could quickly dispense them to wherever in the country they need to go. We have a process where we would be able to request those medicines be delivered to us and then they can get it to us in a timely fashion.”
Participating emergency management groups say the likelihood of an anthrax attack in Fort Wayne might be low, but each must prepare for any type of public emergency.
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