Oklahoma Writes Terror Guidebook
Monday, April 29th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Within hours of the Sept. 11 attacks, federal officials wanted advice from the city that lived through what had been the worst act of terrorism on American soil.
That's when rescue workers, city leaders and families of Oklahoma City bombing victims realized how much they had to say.
Their suggestions have turned into a 45-page booklet detailing what other cities should do if terrorists attack.
``If, God forbid, something like this happens again, you could grab that book,'' said retired U.S. Army Gen. Dennis Reimer, director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism.
The guide is the latest project for the institute, which is funding research to develop a faster anthrax vaccine and sensors that could set off a shrieking alarm if they detected biological chemicals.
The book offers advice on everything from dealing with families searching for loved ones to creating a memorial to honor the dead. The institute published its first copies of the guide April 19, the seventh anniversary of the bombing, and plans to make several hundred more for cities across the country.
``Oklahoma City _ Seven Years Later: Lessons for Other Communities'' tells cities to develop a plan and hold drills in case terrorists strike. It describes how to set up centers for the media and donation collection. And it suggests setting up a family assistance center _ out of sight of the disaster _ where relatives will ``first deal with the medical examiner and funeral directors.
``There may be continued hope for survivors. Do not treat victims' families as if the death of their loved ones is a foregone conclusion until it truly is.''
Other projects funded by the institute include the development of an anthrax vaccine that would be lifesaving if the person exposed took it within 72 hours. Scientists at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Harvard University and other schools received a $2.48 million grant from the terrorism prevention institute for the three-year project, which began before the anthrax mail scare last fall.
The current anthrax vaccination requires six shots during 18 months.
``That's a little bit too little too late if you're really facing a serious threat of anthrax,'' Reimer said. ``I think we recognize that after the very serious scare that took place after 9-11.''
Another project has an Oklahoma State University researcher creating sensors that could detect dangerous chemical or biological agents, including nerve gas or anthrax spores. The devices would sit inside city water lines or in building air ducts.
``If it sensed something that was extremely harmful, it would be like a fire alarm,'' Reimer said. ``It would let people know they were in a danger area.''
Other researchers at OSU are trying to create battery-cooled firefighter uniforms so firefighters could withstand heat longer. And a University of Tulsa professor is developing a way to protect the 911 system.
The institute began operating in 2000 after receiving a $15 million appropriation from Congress. As a nonprofit organization, it also accepts donations.
Most of its money, about 70 percent, supports research. About $800,000 of the institute's annual budget goes toward administration costs and salary for its 13 employees, who include a man who lost his mother in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building.
Oklahoma State researcher Ken Clinkenbeard said the institute's projects could change the way the country responds to terrorism.
``They are very important in having the foresight to put this together after the Murrah building bombing,'' he said. ``What they are doing with their money is very important for America to be prepared.''