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Barrow County practices emergency responses
In protective gear to handle the initial response to the hazardous material scene, Barrow County Fire and Emergency Services personnel prepares a “victim” for transport. This was part of a drill to assess how emergency services personnel respond to a situation as it developed into a health emergency. - photo by LeAnne Akin

WINDER — Emergency responders scrambled to the scene of an anthrax-carrying plane earlier this month in Barrow County. Except this wasn’t a real situation, it was a drill that had been planned for about a month to test preparedness.

Barrow County Emergency Management Agency, Barrow County Sheriff’s Office, Barrow County Fire & Emergency Services, Winder Police Department, Winder Fire Department, Barrow County Public Health as well as the District Health Office, Barrow Regional Medical Center and other resources participated.

The American Red Cross and Barrow’s Community Emergency Response Team also participated in the June 11 state drill and exercise.

When responders were advised there was a possibility of anthrax on the plane, the hazardous materials team went into action researching response tactics.

Simulating the evacuation of a quarter-mile perimeter, Barrow County Sheriff’s deputies and Winder Police officers responded and were involved in the search for a “suspect” who may have been exposed to anthrax.

Georgia Department of Transportation “closed off” Atlanta Highway and CSX Transportation was notified to halt trains. Concerns expanded as a “suspect” from the plane may be exposing others. Health department officials would be needed to administer medication.

County participants said the drill provided real insight into the strengths of the working relationships but highlighted the need for stepped-up communication.

“The drill went very well. All of the key agencies we needed to participate did so and everyone cooperated,” said EMA Director Jimmy Terrell.

Outside evaluators complimented the county’s personnel and agencies for the teamwork and response.

“We certainly appreciate the membership of the Chapel Christian Church for allowing us to use the property there along with the facility for debriefing,” Terrell said.

“We also appreciate Airport Director Glen Boyd and the Airport Authority for allowing us to stage at the airport,” he said. “The airport is a great asset. In a real world situation, we would have been able to fly CDC and public health officials into the airport and move them right into a staging area.”

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