Illinois first responders simulate bioterrorism attack

Employees and volunteers at the Quad-Cities Processing & Distribution Facility in Rock Island County, Illinois, participated in a full-scale bioterrorism exercise on Thursday to prepare first responders for biological attacks.

Hundreds of thousands of letters go through the processing facility for the U.S. Postal Service every day and a biodetection system is in place to scan each letter for anthrax. The plan in place to handle a bioterrorism emergency was put to the test on Thursday, the Quad-City Times reports.

The Thursday exercise included members of the Rock Island County Health Department, Coal Valley police and fire protection districts, Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, Rock Island County Sheriff's Department, Rock Island County Emergency Management, Quad-City International Airport Security and volunteers from the Rock Island High School Spanish Club.

"Our first job is to get a head count of the employees affected," Nick Ciummo, a national preparedness specialist with the postal service, said, according to the Quad-City Times. "Then they go through decontamination, and then they get their medicine."

Firefighters with hoses pretended to spray down volunteers, who then took real showers in MABAS vehicles. Volunteers were checked for vital signs before boarding a bus and being taken to a medical area where they would receive their medications. In a real situation, the medications would be taken from the national stockpile.

"We do this every three years," Ciummo said, according to the Quad-City Times. "Our employees are our number one resource and are an integral part of the communities in which they live. We want to take care of them and be prepared for any emergency."