I recently served as a controller for an exercise up in New England. This was a combined exercise based on the dispersion of Anthrax. This in itself makes it a terrorist incident. Present at the exercise were fire, EMS, Hospitals, Emergency Management………and one lone policeman.
Unfortunately this is not an exception but pretty much the rule when it comes to exercises, law enforcement just doesn’t show up most of the time. Although in most every case, the training of our law enforcement officers is the highest anywhere, the hole that is left by their absence in these types of exercises will surely be felt in the event of a real incident. When we have an incident, we are all only as strong as our weakest link. In the case of Anthrax, it becomes a public health incident as well as a criminal incident and he way it is handled and investigated can put the lives of a lot of people in jeopardy real quick.
The investigation of an incident of this type originates in public health. The symptoms of an Anthrax incident are unfortunately the same as that of the flu and the real problem may go undetected until the right test is performed in a lab. Without this treatment will be lacking and there is only a 48 hour window for detection and treatment. Once the actual anthrax problem is discovered and based on the number of patients involved, law enforcement needs to be brought in. Investigation of this type of infection is carried out by public health investigators called Epidemiologists. Law enforcement should work very closely with these folks so that the right questions are asked of the right people and they should only be asked once. This all takes training and coordination, use of ICS on both sides and the absence of turf battles. Let’s hope the next time there is a little better participation.