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Dane County Executive Falk Says County is Prepared to Respond to a Terrorist Incident or Large-scale Hazardous Accident

September 11, 2003
Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 267-8823
County Executive

On the second anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said Dane County is trained, equipped and prepared to respond to a large-scale attack or incident in the county. “We’ve been building on our readiness since 1997, and we’re further improving every day,” said Falk in a briefing held in the county’s Emergency Operations Center in the Public Safety Building.
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“Emergency preparedness is always a team effort. We plan together. We practice together. Because, ultimately, we will respond together,” said Falk. Falk said planning and preparedness involves a long list of partners who are involved and have participated in several training exercises. That list includes fire, police and EMS personnel throughout the county, public health departments, the hospitals and health care personnel, the utilities, highway and transportation personnel, American Red Cross, human services, public information, and others. “Since my administration began in 1997, well before 9-11, we have aggressively secured funding to prepare for attacks and accidents that require special response to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive incidents,” said Falk. This has resulted in over $3 million coming to the county for planning, training, equipment, supplies and exercising the plans.” In 1998, the county began an assessment of the most likely targets of an attack in Dane County. It goes beyond the most likely targets, including the State Capitol, and University buildings, to sites that house large numbers of people or hazardous chemicals, for instance. The tools the county’s Emergency Management Department developed to do that assessment has become a national model, cited by the US Department of Justice and used now by communities across the country. The first goal is to train and equip the first responder--police, fire and emergency medical personnel. They are now better equipped to handle “first on the scene” emergencies, while awaiting the arrival of specialized equipment and personnel. One example is a chemical spill, or release of biological agents, which calls for wearing full-body protective suits and specialized gloves and hoods, which first responders now have in their vehicles. The county has four mobile decontamination trailers filled with decontamination and medical equipment, and a fast-assembly tent, equipped with hoses to do de-contamination washings. The county also has two mobile “mass casualty” trailers, to speed medical attention to injured people, available for use throughout the county. A cache of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics and prophylactics stands ready to respond to, for instance, an anthrax attack. There are 10,000 doses or applications to respond to a chemical attack or incident, and 36,000 doses to respond to a biological incident. These are stored and kept in fresh rotation at a local hospital. If this is not enough, there are plans in place to tap into the Strategic National Stockpile. “What is very exciting to me is the ‘Reverse 911’ system now being developed,” said Falk. In Reverse 911, people who live in an area affected by an incident, such as a chemical spill that is producing noxious fumes, can be identified using GIS (Geographical Information Systems), and a recorded message giving them instructions on what to do, can be telephoned to every house in that zone. This is particularly important during the night when people aren’t as likely to be listening to the media. “We have 120 facilities throughout the county that store and handle hazardous materials. An accident could happen at any one of them, and the Reverse 911 System would help us notify people in the affected areas,” said Kathy Krusiec, Dane County Emergency Management director. “We’ll also use Reverse 911 to notify Special Response teams, speeding the response to incidents.” Reverse 911 is projected to be in operation by the end of 2003. “Nine-eleven was a gut-wrenching day for all American,” said Falk. “We are here to assure our citizens that we are prepared for the types of large-scale incidents that may happen in our communities—be they natural or man-made.” # # # See Attached 3-page Sheet: List of $3 million in federal grants secured since 1998.