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  • Anthrax Panic?

    How many of these 'scares' are you all getting? In my county we've had several in the last two weeks. As is appropriate they are handled with great diligence, taking it seriously since there are lots of 'wanna-be' terrorists out there - but I think it's getting out of hand.

    There was one department in the county here that got a call from a gentleman that thought the 'lint' you get off toilet paper was Anthrax! I guess Mr. Whipple was out to get him!

    There are people in my neighborhood that approach their mailboxes in the afternoons like it will bite them. I'm not talking about journalists, politicians or anyone famous..just normal folks that work in normal places and don't have reason to be considered 'high risk'.

    Is anyone else seeing this type of panic?
    Susan Lounsbury
    Winston-Salem Rescue Squad
    Griffith Volunteer FD

  • #2
    Fortunately, I'm not seeing panic, although I'm sure it's out there. And I work for a division of the New York Times -- so all our mail is being screened by security prior to distribution!

    The more research I've done, I've found:

    1. There isn't a good "first-responder guide" to be found on the 'net.

    2. However, responding to Anthrax scares whether unfounded, hoax, or actual is really just combining skills and knowledge we have.

    While many skills contribute, such as ICS, three main ones to remember are:
    -- Secure it as a crime scene, which it is if a hoax or actual incident.
    -- Use standard Body-Substance Isolation practices including eye protection and HEPA masks are effective
    -- Follow Haz-Mat procedures

    3. The last item, follow Haz-Mat procedures may be the most important. BSI is effective protection against Anthrax. What happens the day we respond to "another Anthrax call" and it turns out to be neither a hoax or Anthrax but something else?

    Without signs/symptoms of something else happening, following Anthrax procedures of BSI, isolate the victims, have appropriate level Haz-Mat units take sample, etc should be fine -- we can wait for the analysis. If victims start becoming sick immediately, showing rashes, etc we better be ready to switch into full haz-mat mode quickly.

    IACOJ Canine Officer


    • #3
      We have had one response to the international bridge that is in our town. People notices an off white granular substance on one of the runner carpets in the customs building approximately 1 hour after they were cleaned. Ordinarily they said they would have vacuumed it up without a second thought. But in light of the current situation they thought it best to call us.
      We have dealt with anthrax scares before. About two years ago people thought it would be an easy way to get out of school by calling in an anthrax threat, on several occasions. Our teams went in in level B suits and sampled the substance. The sample came back negative for anthrax spores, however, no word on what it actually is yet.

      Unlike your area Susan. We have several locations in our area that are under heightened security. Including the bridges to Canada, a large hydro power generating plant, and a large industrial area.

      All we are doing now is planning for the worst and hoping that it never happens.

      Stay safe
      Shawn M. Cecula
      IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS


      • #4
        There have been six scares in our county since last night, not to mention all of the ones before.
        People are understandably scared, but I think we're making a bad situation worse.
        Relax, be diligent, and above all, be safe.


        • #5
          Yesterday my Dept (4 stations/30 sq mis/70 FF/suburban) responded to about 7 anthrax scares, including a Hazmat team response to the neighboring city's Post Office. Some were just ridiculous-one lady called because of something white on her backyard deck-it was bird crap, duh?
          I'm invoking my usual saying-it's job security, 'cause if more people had common sense we wouldn't have a job.


          • #6
            The town I live near, which happens to be home to one of the largest military bases on the east coast has had a few scares over the last few days. And the town I work in, some 90 miles away had their first last night. Luckily all turned out to be hoaxes. Watch your step and wear your PPE. Be careful my brothers and sisters.
            Jim Edge, Paramedic/Firefighter
            Wilmington NC
            [email protected]
            In Memory and Honor of FDNY, NYPD, and NYC EMS 9/11/01


            • #7
              Our county has a Haz-Mat team that is being run ragged. Everytime there is a news story, 911 gets many calls (all unfounded). Now the call takers are screening them and questioning the caller. Only one person is sent to investigate now, not a full response. Since they are all Vols, they are getting burned out quickly. This is a really tough situation since people are really panicky. I wish the news media would report more carefully about the true risks.


              • #8
                The HazMat team in my county is running probably anywhere from 10-30 calls a day...they are just all over the place nonstop. Not one has been an actual legit anthrax attack but you never know...it could happen...
                Move fast or move aside...


                • #9
                  Several scares have been called in our area as well- The news media is playing this one up so well people are freaking out over every little thing they come across.

                  As far as protocals on how to handle anthrax scares- the C.D.C. has given a guideline to the federal govt and they have been forwarded to dispatch centers nationwide.
                  May we ride into the darkness only to return as safe as we started!!


                  • #10
                    Our County Prosecutor has stepped in and has police only responding to make a quick determination if anything else is needed.

                    They were getting 10-15 calls per town per day for last week of people saying that the mail had no return address or was from some address they didn't know. After having the HazMat team open a few credit card offers, campaign literature and baby shower invitations, the PD is attempting to see if there is something suspicious about the package/envelope before upgrading the response.

                    [ 10-18-2001: Message edited by: no_name_FF ]
                    The above is MY OPINION only and not that of anyone else. I am not representing any organization in making a post here!!!!


                    • #11
                      We have had several already this week and we are in the middle of NO WHERE!
                      Most are by older residents who got some mail postmarked 'florida' and they didn't know who it was from.
                      An interesting one was from a lady who opened her letter and a check for was in it. She didn't know why she would be getting a check from somewhere in florida. (it was a regular business style printed check). Anyway she calls us.
                      We contact the phone number on the check and determine that Mrs. Worried had cancelled her magazine subscription and they were refunding her money. Funny part is this... she tells us she doesn't want that check anyway.

                      We have had a class on identifying suspicious mail (recommendations of our local Postal inspector.)We are just treating it like a haz-mat.

                      be safe brothers
                      Be safe brothers


                      • #12
                        All of this anthrax hype reminds me of a scene from the movie Ghostbusters...
                        excuse my paraphrasing..

                        We're talkin' about real end of the world stuff here, the seas boilin', the dead rising, plague, famine, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!

                        What used to be the sugar spill on aisle 3 in the local Piggly Wiggly in now a biohazard/hazmat incident.

                        We went on two calls for "an unknown substance with possible exposure" last night..at the corporate offices of a credit union and a photo processing center. We also had a unknown package that contained a powdered substance at a private residence that required the response of the hazmat team on October 13th.

                        The state hazmat teams have responded to hundreds of calls in the last few weeks.
                        The State has assigned firefighters who are part of the Department of Fire Services Regional Hazmat teams (there are 6 teams statewide)to man the technical operations units and the equipment trucks from 07:00 to 21:00 hours, with call backs from 21:00 to 07:00.

                        Part of the blame for this is the media...they keep on hyping the threat...and we all know what media hype does.

                        In my opinion, if a terrorist organization (foreign or domestic) is going to target a segment of the population, it would be the politicians, the military and the media...it would get the most attention. We have to be vigilant, but let's take a rational approach.

                        I heard this as part of a new conference from Tom Rich, Secretary of Homeland Defense

                        "Thousands of people have been tested thousands of samples have been taken, and there have been only 5 confirmed cases of anthrax."

                        Over 200 million Americans, 5 have anthrax. That leaves approximately 199,999,995 Americans that don't have anthrax.

                        [ 10-18-2001: Message edited by: Captain Gonzo ]
                        ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
                        Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


                        • #13
                          Plenty of "scares" the last week, but no confirmed anthrax. All have been handled as valid emergencies, but the initial response has been reduced to an engine company and the police, with the HAZMAT team monitoring the call via radio. 9-1-1 is screening the calls more thoroughly, and providing pre-arrival instructions to callers, but we're still seeing some goofy calls. For example, last night what was obviously trash tossed onto a roadway was called in by a citizen as a suspicious package. People seem to have lost all common sense and logical thought lately. I can understand being a little jittery, considering that I'm in the DC/Baltimore area, but not to the point of being so scared that you lose all perspective. When that happens, the bad guys have won! Stay safe everyone.
                          Donald M. Street, Captain
                          Maryland City VFD
                          Laurel, MD


                          • #14
                            This might help. My hazmat leader has told us that all we need is the standard stuff. Gloves and a air purifying respirator are all thats needed. SCBA's can be used if APR is not avilable but is overkill. The stuff is in a powder and cant move on its own. If anyone has made contact with the substance they should wash. We tell people that if they feel like they are catching the flu in the next few days after to have themselves checked. Most importantly we are NOT to evacuate a building unless the stuff is in the HVAC system (not likely)as this only serves to keep people afraid. There is nothing to fear from this stuff as if you actually get the virus then their is effective treatments.
                            Firefighter/NREMT-B/Hazmat Tech
                            To the Lord Jesus Christ: Thanks for providing a career where we can make a difference.


                            • #15
                              We've had steady diet of anthrax mania, I mean calls. Common sense is on vacation and the media is fanning the flames. We're getting some pretty ridiculous calls and some that have potential. All are handled appropriately as the circumstances dictate, but the public needs education and reassurance. The mind set outside the fire service is quite different than your's and mine. Good luck and stay safe

                              PS. I agree with Scott Reasor, Pampa is in the boonies. I roughnecked for Sharp in the Canadian basin and near Wheeler.
                              "It's not surprising, but it's a shame"

                              "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts"
                              -A. Einstein

                              "The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."
                              - Plato -


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