Oklahoma City, Tulsa preparing for biological attack


Saturday, September 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Officials have stockpiled antidotes, antibiotics and decontamination equipment in the event of chemical and biological acts of terrorism on the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas, officials said Friday.

``Under any scenario that is reasonably imaginable, we are well-prepared to move large quantities of medical supplies into affected areas,'' said Robert Petrone, Oklahoma's bioterrorism preparedness and response coordinator.

Local resources also would be supplemented by a National Pharmaceutical Stockpile that could airlift needed medications to Oklahoma within eight to 12 hours from one of eight secret sites in the United States.

Petrone and EMSA officials said police, fire and ambulance personnel and hospital emergency rooms are preparing for mass casualties stemming from the chemical nerve agent sarin, and from biological agents such as anthrax, plague, smallpox and tularemia, an infectious disease also known as rabbit fever.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa emergency services now have 1,500 doses of nerve gas antidotes that can be self-administered in case of exposure to lethal gases such as sarin.

Those neutralizers are available to firefighters, police officers, EMSA paramedics and hazardous material handlers.

EMSA official Mike Murphy said Friday that several caches of antibiotics and pharmaceutical supplies are in place in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas.

``We are far better prepared now than two years ago, and Oklahoma City and Tulsa are definitely prepared to address weapons of mass destruction,'' said Murphy, EMSA's medical response system coordinator.

EMSA officials also stressed that metro-area hospitals have taken a closer look at decontamination methods and supplies in order to quickly remove harmful chemicals and biological substances from skin, hair and clothes.

Petrone and Murphy stressed that the federal government has a potent backup system to help cities and states whose citizens are hit by infectious agents.

``We want people to be informed and protected, and to reduce mass hysteria within the population,'' Murphy said.

Oklahoma health officials are not encouraging large-scale vaccinations against infectious agents that could be used by bioterrorists.