Calif. county simulates ricin release into water supply

Health and safety crews from Tehama County, Calif., collaborated on a water interruption training exercise on Thursday morning using a scenario in which ricin had been put into the water supply.

Participating in the exercise were staff from the St. Elizabeth Community Hospital, the public health and public works departments, the Red Bluff police and fire departments, the California Highway Patrol, CalFire and the sheriff's department. The exercise, which is held annually, helped the agencies discover what deficiencies they each have so they can be better prepared to overcome them during an actual emergency, Red Bluff Daily News reports.

"All residents and businesses receiving city water within Tehama County must not use or consume water for any purpose," Phillip Mackintosh, the CHP public information officer, said as part of the scenario, according to Red Bluff Daily News.

Mackintosh was one of three people who operated the public information office during the training scenario. Each department involved went through the motions of what their responsibilities would be should such a threat become a reality. City Hall was set up as a command center for the exercise and hospital staff practiced filtering water from a pool along with other activities. Law enforcement decided on the best locations for stations that distribute safe bottled water and sites for portable toilets.

"We will do everything we can to provide information to keep people safe," Mackintosh said, according to Red Bluff Daily News.

The mock emergency exercise forced departments to plan what they could or would do in a related situation.

In the past, responders have committed to an airplane crash and a bus rollover reenactment. The training was the second part of a tabletop exercise that the departments did approximately one month before.