Monday, May 12, 2003
Lucky us. Chicago and Seattle will be participating in a national Homeland Security defense drill codenamed Topoff-2 - the country's first large-scale test of terrorist preparedness since 9/11. This afternoon Seattle officials will stage a mock "dirty bomb" explosion, complete with hazard-suited emergency responders, fake "reporters", and over 100 "bomb casualties".
Here in the Windy City the test is a little more subtle, but no less frightening: officials here will test the spread of a biological warfare agent, a strain of "pneumonic plague". In days, participants will begin filtering into area hospitals with flu-like symptoms, and will undergo evaluation, quarantine, and treatment with mock antibiotics.
Listening to radio this morning, the test is big news because city leaders want everyone to be aware this is only, repeat only a test. The last thing they need is a public panic over a rumored biological attack. I've personally seen the havoc a single abandoned bookbag can have on the subway system, so a mock bio-terror attack of this scale brings to mind some awful "War of the Worlds" scenario.
However, the good part is at least we'll have some idea of how prepared we are as a city do deal with this type of situation. That'll make me feel a lot better than having a roll of duct tape in hand.
More details at CNN.com, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Department of Homeland Security.
So, fellow Chicagoans, be prepared to anything over the next week or so.
Even bubble-suited government people.