U.S. Postal Service tests bioterror response

Postal employees in Lansing, Michigan, conducted decontamination drills on August 18, simulating their response to a bioterror attack using anthrax.

Anthrax, caused by inhaling, digesting or breathing the bacteria or spores of Bacillus anthracis, killed five people in a 2001 mail attack in Washington, D.C. Among the dead were two postal workers. Since then, the U.S. Postal Service has taken better measures to protect its employees, including holding such drills, according to the Lansing State Journal.

The exercise, the first since 2007, was held at the Lansing post office and processing center, and included training in the use of an inflatable decontamination station and hazardous materials suits.

The Lansing police and fire departments and members of the Ingham County Health Department also played an active role in the drills, the Lansing State Journal reports. Marcus Cheatum, the assistant deputy health officer at the health department, told the Lansing State Journal that the training helps officials find and fix problems in their responses and teaches the different organizations to work together.

"Before 9/11 and before we started doing these drills, we never partnered with the post office or the Fire Department or the sheriff on things like this, and now we're doing stuff jointly all the time," Cheatum told the Lansing State Journal.

"It just gives us all an opportunity to get together, look at our processes ... and make sure everything works in an orderly fashion," Postal Service spokeswoman Sabrina Todd told the Lansing State Journal.