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"Anthrax" Calls

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  • "Anthrax" Calls

    My Team has run more calls this weekend than we have for the past 2 months chasing "suspicious" mail and packages around the county. How are the other Teams handling this situation?

  • #2
    Capt 292-- I logged on today for that exact same reason, our responses have increased drastically. Heres what we are doing> A limited Hazmat level 1 response, inspecting the package, if no clues as published by the post office, we are double bagging- zip lock freezer bags- and giving to PD for evidence. We are wearing a N95 hepa mask, safety glasses, latex gloves, and using tongs - not touching anything. Local FBI has no interest (time) for non-suspect packages. So PD is stacking them in an outside evicence lock-up. If there are clues, we suit up in tyvek and wear SCBA and double bag, again giving it to PD. We decon the SCBA, bag it, and bag the suit and other PPE. I'd love to hear what other departments and hazmat teams are doing......


    • #3
      Oh stop....
      All this has me to the point of wearing latex gloves when opening mail from an address I have never seen. Even getting the urge to pack up with a protective suit to go into the post office. Maybe if we don't make such a big news-event of it, they will stop!


      • #4
        I am from a fairly small fulltime department and we are concerned about the anthrax threat as much as anyone. I was wondering if anyone could give us any help in how we should deal with a threat. We do not have any haz mat training beyond the awareness level. So we do not have any suits, just hepa masks and regular PPE.
        Stay Safe..Never Forget


        • #5
          Any non HazMat unit, such as most local FD's ,should be handling these calls defensively. However, if a letter is unopened and no threat has been made and the letter is suspicious only because of the return address, we, here, are dressing out in Level C protection, PPE and SCBA, with double rubber gloves and opening the letter to see if anything is in it. If nothing, give it back to the addressee.
          Letters with a threat accompanying them ("Anthrax Inside") should be handled by haz mat units. Any powders should be handled by haz mat units.
          We have six District HazMat teams here in Massachusetts. They are going full blast since last week. The Dept. of Public Health is overwhelmed with samples that need to be processed. As of right now(Wed Afternoon), things seem to be slowing slightly.

          [ 10-17-2001: Message edited by: Miltgf ]


          • #6

            Wichita Fire Department "Level 6 Haz-Mat" Procedures

            Wichita Fire, Sedgwick County Fire and Sedgwick County 911 have developed a
            new type of call for anthrax threats/calls. They are paged and dispatched
            as a Hazmat 6 (Single unit response only), identifying it as an Anthrax
            call. Dispatch will ask the caller several questions and if the call does
            not meet certain criteria then the closest unit will respond. They will
            respond regular traffic; crew will investigate wearing turnouts and have
            SCBA's on their back, (mask not on unless observed conditions indicate
            otherwise such as confined areas or wind blowing). The officer will contact
            the calling party, avoiding any contact with any suspected product. If the
            officer determines that this may be a real anthrax call then they will
            advise dispatch to make it a level 2 (One or Both Units from Station 3 and a
            Battalion Chief) or level 3 Hazmat (Full Haz Mat Team Response). The
            dispatcher will contact the FBI and other appropriate agencies.

            The handling of the suspected product is the responsibility of the Haz Mat
            Team. Once the product has been bagged, it becomes evidence and the Law
            Enforcement agency takes over. Local Law enforcement does not have the
            training or equipment to handle contaminated products. Double or triple
            bagging the product properly in a Bio Hazard Bag, should make it
            transportable for Law Enforcement. It should not be transported in a state
            where contamination is spread beyond original site.

            Wichita Fire has developed and placed a kit on each responding company. The
            "kit" consists of level "B" suits, Chem-tape, Bio Hazard bags for suspected
            agent and Bio Hazard bags for used/contaminated equipment.

            Recommendations for Level 6 Haz-Mat Calls:

            1. "Detective Work" all these calls will require some detective
            work on your part. This begins with information that you receive from
            dispatch while enroute and when questioning people involved with the

            2. Location of incident: Is this a high priority target for
            terrorists? I.e. government building, news agency, manufacturing facility,
            abortion clinic, mall, etc. Is the substance Indoors or Outdoors, is it in a
            populated area or not, is it contained or spread out? These are all examples
            of Location Questions that you should be asking yourself.

            3. Container Shape and Size: Most of the terrorist's threats
            involving Anthrax require the spores to become air borne. This can be done
            mechanically or by an explosive device. At this point in time most of these
            threats are made by letter. The action of opening the letter will release
            the spores into the air near the persons face. Remember, it is advantageous
            for the attacker to get the spores airborne so the spores can be inhaled. As
            a general rule large containers are considered poor modes of delivering and
            Anthrax Attack. It is cheaper and easier to ship a letter verses a large
            package. Small packages, less than 6 cubic inches should be considered the
            same as letters.

            4. Contents of Container: (envelope, box,) Is the container
            open? What color is the powder? Any powder having a color probably does not
            contain the Anthrax virus, however it still could be a Haz-Mat condition. A
            powder that has a fine texture and is white, off white, or has a slight
            yellow tint may be considered as suspicious. How much powder is in the
            container? A large amount of powder (half cup or more) would be considered
            non suspicious in most cases. Powder dispersed over a large area is often
            hard to estimate and should be considered a Level 3 if indoors and unable to
            determine origin. Consider the above examples as to whether or not it is

            5. Addresses/Return Addresses: Identify (if possible) where the
            letter or package was being sent or has been sent to. If it fits into one of
            the above criteria, consider where (if possible) it was shipped from by a
            return address or postmark. No return address can also be considered
            suspicious. Locally mailed letters and packages may not be considered as
            much of a threat, unless a threatening letter or note accompanied the
            powder. An attempt should be made to contact intended recipients with local
            addresses, WPD can be contacted to assist you with this.

            6. No Package or Container: For Level 6 calls that do not have
            a letter, container, or threat accompanying them, the amount and color of
            the product should be considered. Is the product in a densely populated area
            or is it remote. Does it have the possibility of being dispersed? Is it in a
            high traffic area? Is it an inhalation hazard, skin contact hazard or both?
            All of these questions need to be answered by the first crew on the scene.
            Has any one contacted the substance either by breathing or touching? Have
            any of the patients been threatened? Can a logical solution be found for the
            product being where it is? I.E. did a cleaning person spill some cleaning
            powder, did a construction company spill some mortar or plaster? Common
            Sense will be your best ally in these types of situations.

            Instructions for use of "Anthrax Kit"

            The chemical protective clothing "kits" are to be used only on Anthrax
            (type) calls when crewmembers MUST contact a source that may be
            contaminated. For example, assisting a contaminated patient with decon. It
            would not be appropriate where the people are able to decon themselves.
            (The best location for patient decon is in a standard home shower, with
            regular soap and water.)

            Donning Procedures -
            * Workers in chemical protective clothing should always work
            in pairs, with backup.
            * Don the chemical suit over your duty uniform, not over your
            turnout gear.
            * Don your turnout boots, medical gloves and an SCBA after
            donning the suit.
            * Place SCBA facepiece on head prior to raising the chemical
            suit hood.
            * Use the Chem Tape to seal the openings between the sleeve
            and gloves.
            * Use the Chem Tape to seal the opening between the legs of
            the suit and your turnout boots.
            * Secure the hood to the facepiece with the Chem Tape.

            Removal Procedures -
            * Thoroughly wash the outside of the suit and SCBA with soap
            and water. Crewmembers in chemical suits can perform this task on each
            * It is not necessary to capture the runoff.
            * Assistants should use medical gloves - and only touch the
            outside (contaminated) portion of the suit.
            * Place all the suits, gloves, boots and used tape, in a large
            Biohazard bag.
            * Place each airpack in a large Biohazard bag. (We'll
            determine later if these items are really contaminated.)
            * As soon as possible, all crewmembers should wash their
            * As soon as practical, shower, change uniform clothing and
            launder your "old" clothing using normal washer settings and detergent.

            Instructions for Bagging Suspected Materials

            The Wichita Police Department may request that materials involved in
            the Level 6, 2, 3, Haz-Mat call be collected as evidence. To assist the
            responding officers the following guideline should be utilized.

            * The responding Supervising Officer will have 1 gallon
            zip-lock baggies to store the contaminated evidence. The officers have been
            advised not to collect any contaminated evidence in anything other than the
            zip-lock baggies.
            * The baggies are large enough to place letters and small
            boxes into. Anything larger that would be taken into evidence will be placed
            in the red collection bags that will be carried in the Battalion Chief
            vehicles. These bags will be triple bagged and taped shut by the Haz-Mat
            * Any questions regarding evidence collection and handling
            should be directed to the Supervising WPD Officer, the responding Battalion
            Chief and/or Haz-Mat Team.

            Anthrax Facts

            General -
            * Most threats are intended to disrupt services or they are
            designed to detract emergency services personnel from the real target.
            * Anthrax is a highly infectious disease caused by spores of a
            bacterium known as Bacillus anthracis.
            * Human infection may occur by three routes of exposure to
            anthrax spores: cutaneous, gastrointestinal, and pulmonary (inhalation).
            Cutaneous Anthrax -
            * Skin contact with live infected animals, or with the hide,
            hair or bones of an infected animal may lead to infection of a person's
            skin, known as cutaneous anthrax infection.
            * This is the most common manifestation of anthrax in humans,
            accounting for more than 95 percent of cases.
            * Untreated cutaneous anthrax infection should be considered a
            serious problem.
            Gastrointestinal Anthrax -
            * Eating undercooked or raw, infected meat can cause
            gastrointestinal anthrax infection.
            * Ingestion of large quantities of anthrax spores may induce
            the disease in humans.
            Pulmonary Anthrax (inhalation) -
            * The inhalation of large quantities (2000-20000, but usually
            + 15000) of anthrax spores may induce the disease in humans.
            * For a large amount of Anthrax spores to be inhaled, the
            spores have to be airborne. Powder lying in an envelope or on a sidewalk
            does not produce enough airborne spores to induce the anthrax disease.
            However, wind or other air currents will increase the number of spores that
            become airborne.
            * Experience has shown that inhalation anthrax is an extremely
            hazardous situation.
            * While potentially deadly, anthrax is treatable if identified
            within the first 12 hours. Treatment of anthrax infection involves
            administration of antibiotics.
            * Inhalation anthrax infection has two phases. During the
            first phase, which occurs within one to five days after inhalation of the
            spores, the patient has influenza-like symptoms, such as a cough, malaise,
            fatigue and mild fever.
            * Several days later these symptoms may subside, but are
            rapidly followed by the second phase, a more severe stage of disease.
            During the second phase, the patient experiences sudden onset of severe
            respiratory distress, and sometimes chest pain accompanied by fever. Chest
            x-rays may show fluid in the lung. Within a day, septic shock and death
            will likely occur.

            A field test Kit is available from Alexeter technologies for those who have
            the dollars to spend
            #P-102 ($6,260.00) and contains the following:
            1 Box of 25 each of anthrax, Ricin, SEB, botulinum and plague BTA(tm) Test
            Proficiency Strips
            Collection Kit
            Guardian BTA(tm) Reader System
            If desired, additional test strips can be ordered at $495.00 per box of 25
            strips. According to the information, prices of the test strips are not
            expected to increase after November 1, 2001. However, the reader is expected
            to increase in price after that date.
            Alexeter Industries
            830 Seton Court Suite 6
            Wheeling Illinois 60090
            877-591-5571 www.alexeter.com

            On a personal note:
            What is sad is that one person has died nationwide as a result of Anthrax.
            If you get the anthrax virus and recognize the symptoms soon enough it is
            treatable with the appropriate antibiotics. A little over 100 deaths have
            been attributed to the Firestone tires and SUV rollovers, resulting in
            millions of tires being recalled. The media sensationalized both of these.
            However over 4,000 citizens and over 100 firefighters lost their lives last
            year due to fire, and that is apparently an acceptable loss. Fire prevention
            week barely gets 30 seconds of news time and people continue to die even
            though there is technology available to prevent this. I.e. smoke detectors,
            smoke alarm systems and sprinkler systems. A lot of our time and money is
            being spent trying to prepare for a low risk, low mortality event, when we
            need to place a priority and emphasis on a high risk, high mortality event ;
            Firefighter Safety, Fire Prevention and Education.
            Charlie Keeton
            Chief Training/Safety Officer
            Wichita Fire Department
            [email protected]

            Charlie Keeton
            Chief Training/Safety Officer
            Wichita Fire Department
            [email protected]


            • #7
              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.
              The above is MY OPINION only and not that of anyone else. I am not representing any organization in making a post here!!!!


              • #8
                Any unopened envelope is handled by the PD. They wear gloves and double bag the envelope. Any opened or found powder is handled by our hazmat team. We find the circumstances (baking the night before) and contain the product for the PD as evidence. We've tested product for classification. The baking incident tested positive for flour. We can't rule out anthrax, but it is a little more reassuring for the home owner. I hope everyone is playing safely out there!


                • #9
                  As most departments we are definetly getting in plenty of suit time. In regards to what we are doing the Tennessee Department of Health issued a new set of guidelines for decon.
                  If a person has come in contact with a suspicous(sp?) powder they are to wash only the exposed skin and can carry their clothes home and wash them as normal. They are not recommending a full out decon.
                  Just thought I would pass that on and see what everyone thought.
                  It does speed up the time on scene a bunch though. We also are using a lot less equipment and supplies under the new guidelines.
                  W J Vaughn

                  It is what you learn AFTER you know it all that matters


                  • #10
                    The team here went on two call last wed and thats more than they run in an average month
                    LADIES LOVE ME.
                    FLAMES FEAR ME.


                    If you wish to burn our flag please remember to wrap yourself in it first!!!


                    THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN!!!


                    • #11
                      This is what really sucks though,
                      You go through all the proper approved procedures to properly secure the site, use all your necessary PPE, obtain a sample ect.
                      You turn it over to the local pd who transports it to the local FBI lab, who in turn tells you that if you don't hear anything from them in around two weeks assume everything is allright.
                      just think if we operated this efficently with fire supression !


                      • #12
                        Hi there fellows,
                        Just a thought.

                        If you want to wear latex gloves make sure its the powderless type to avoid any confusion later.

                        Be safe


                        • #13
                          Ugh...a powder joke!
                          I was just wondering about something. I was told by someone that they heard a brief newsclip about a hazmat team that tested positive for anthrax(of course they had no other info). I'm checking online to see what I can find. I'm curious if anyone heard any more about this.


                          • #14
                            Actually, the "powder-free gloves" isn't a joke...one of the incidents in the CT/MA area (forget which hospital) a worker noticed powder on their hands after removing gloves. DUH!

                            More and more, I believe these scares are predominantly a Law-enforcement situation. The cops tend to have much better training and more practice asking questions and putting together a picture of what's going on -- you know, detective work. If the cop feels it's a legitimate risk, then it can be escalated from there.

                            Capt -- not a Haz-mat team, but either CNN or MSNBC had a report today of a firefighter who was reportedly exposed after picking up department mail at the post office. That was all the details -- no department (though it was from the Washington, D.C. postal center) etc was named.
                            IACOJ Canine Officer


                            • #15
                              Dalmation, Thanks for your quick response. We always use the proper PPE and I got a little concerned there. We've had more calls these past few weeks than we normally have in a year. I hope you weren't offended by the joke reference, but as you said .."DUH"!
                              As long as they didn't get upset. I won't even mention powdered donuts!
                              Be Safe All!
                              Celeste VanBelle


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