Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Hamilton stages mock terror attack

By Janice Morse jmorse@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON - As nearly two dozen “victims” lay bleeding and groaning near a smoking semitrailer Monday, two women waved and shouted: “Come help!”

        Police instead motioned for the women to come to them, staying outside the Butler County Fairgrounds gates - exactly as they were supposed to, explained Mark Bowden,a coordinator of Butler County's first full-scale emergency preparedness drill.

        “That's something the public doesn't really understand. People don't like to hear that you might have to lay there awhile without help,” Mr. Bowden said. “We've got to wait until we have the properly equipped personnel on scene ... Two dead paramedics don't make one live patient - that's what we teach our students.”

        Within minutes, firefighter/paramedics wearing hazardous-materials protective gear arrived. They used hand-held devices to check the air for toxins and declared it safe to enter.

        The training exercise, held simultaneously at the fairgrounds and at Middletown's Douglass Park/Community Center, had the appearances of an accident.

        But the way the debris scattered suggested something exploded - and that this may be a terrorist act coinciding with a hypothetical Israeli-Arab relations speech in Hamilton by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

        “There was a time when people were saying things like this would never happen in this country. Now, after Sept. 11, everyone wants this kind of training and says we should've done it before,” said Mr. Bowden, a district director of the Ohio Association of Emergency Medical Services.

        The training exercise drew more than 200 emergency personnel from 30 agencies plus about 100 volunteers who acted as victims or observers, said William R. Turner, director of the Butler County Emergency Management Agency.

        A detailed critique is set for Aug. 14, but an initial review showed most procedures flowed smoothly, Mr. Turner said. One exception was radio communication.

        “West Chester (crews) came to assist, but they couldn't talk to the people on the scene.” .

        Mr. Bowden said he hopes the exercise made personnel better prepared to respond “if, God forbid, it would ever happen here.”


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