Archive for Saturday, May 17, 2003

Emergency officials learn from scripted attack

May 17, 2003

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— Deluged with mock plague victims in a national bioterrorism drill, medical teams were ready to treat the living but stumped by the dead.

The staff at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, with a morgue meant for eight bodies, didn't know how to deal with the 47 fictional corpses that ended up at the hospital -- an unexpected problem that was exactly the sort of thing the weeklong drill was intended to uncover, participants said Friday.

"You can write a plan and put it on a shelf, but until you try to enact it, you don't know," said Sharon Ward, director of the emergency department, EMS and trauma services at Illinois Masonic.

The Homeland Security Department sponsored the $16 million drill to assess the country's readiness to deal with terrorist attacks. It began Monday in Seattle with the simulated detonation of a radioactive "dirty bomb" and ended Thursday in Chicago with a raid on the fictional terrorist group responsible for the chaos.

Much of Chicago's drill centered on responding to a deadly plague the script called for terrorists to release in the city.

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