ANTHRAX! WHAT IF? Lincoln emergency services test bioterrorism response

Published 11:18 am Friday, September 15, 2017

STANFORD – Fort Logan High School students got a chance to see what would happen if anthrax made it’s way onto the school busFriday morning as they participated in a mock disaster drill at Ephraim McDowell Fort Logan Hospital.

A school bus, driven by Chris Mingo, transported 10 Fort Logan High School students – or fake victims – to Ephraim McDowell Fort Logan Hospital where the anthrax contamination exercise was staged.

The scenario for the exercise was one aimed at testing local emergency services’ skills and response when it comes to bioterrorism. The script for the scenario begins with a field trip to the Federal Courthouse in Lexington where students had been observing civil and criminal proceedings. Several students on the bus began to develop allergic reactions to a “white power-like substance that was being passed around from student-to-student on the bus.” As the bus was rerouted by Bluegrass 911 dispatch to Fort Logan Hospital, one student with a history of asthma seized while others experienced respiratory distress.

The substance was traced to a large envelope found by a student at the courthouse and brought onto the bus, according to the exercise scenario. A decontamination tent was set up outside of the hospital as the school bus arrived and students were removed individually and decontaminated before entering the hospital for treatment. The bus, which was roped off as a “hot zone” was also decontaminated while law enforcement was on stand by to provide security and crowd control.

Following the exercise, responders gathered inside the hospital to discuss what went well and what could be improved as far as the group’s response to the anthrax scenario.

Some of the problems identified during the critique included: the interference of a Garrard County radio test that interfered with the hospital’s ability to monitor emergency communications; placement of the decontamination tent blocked entry and could have been placed better; electrical and water supply to decontamination tent were right next to each other creating a hazard; bus hot zone doors and windows were left open and not secured to protect environment and personnel; inadequate number of medical personnel in protective outerwear/suits; and decontamination tent station/zones were not identified, making instruction to patients unclear.

State police were actually en route to the hospital at one point as they believed that the exercise was an actual event. Lincoln County Emergency Management suggested notifying local and regional agencies of training.

The absence of the Lincoln County Health Department was also noted in the critique. Both the local and state health departments were advised and participated in the planning of the exercise but failed to show due to a possible schedule conflict.

The agencies and/or organizations that participated in the event were: Fort Logan High School; Fort Logan Hospital; Lincoln Haz-mat unit; Stanford Fire Department; Stanford Police Department; Lincoln County EMS; Lincoln County EMA; Lincoln County Coroner; Lincoln School Bus Garage; Bluegrass 911 Dispatch; The Interior Journal; Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.