Whether it's for an intentional attack or accidental chemical spill, Pam Tucker wants all of Columbia County to be prepared.
Now, a training exercise scheduled for March is designed to make sure that includes Harlem.
"We really only have one hazardous materials team in the county," said Tucker, Columbia County's emergency services director, at a meeting of the Columbia County Local Emergency Planning CommitteeFriday. "So, this is to make sure that the door is open to all of our government entities."
The training was approved by an intergovernmental agreement between the Columbia County Water Department's Hazardous Materials Team and Harlem. It will include a mock drill simulating a leak in the city's chlorine supply, which is used to treat its water.
Although Tucker said the exercise was in the works before Sept. 11, she said it has taken on a new meaning.
"Even though explosives seem to be the most common form of a terrorist attack," she said, "a hazardous materials incident seems to be the most likely attack that a local community like this might face."
Tucker said that if a leak occurred in Harlem today, the hazardous materials team would know what to do and would respond. However, she said the exercise - which will be a first for the haz-mat team in Harlem - is needed because "it will give everybody a chance to work together."
Tucker said a similar drill is being planned for Grovetown.
In other news, concerns about suspicious mail calls were discussed during Friday's meeting. Tucker advised Lt. Andy Shedd, a representative of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, that officers responding to such calls should wear a special mask - designated as an N95 mask - and gloves.
She also said that officers should call her department any time they feel that a package is questionable. Still, Tucker said, the CDC lab in Atlanta - the department's testing site for local suspicious mail - has not been testing packages unless they contain "anything that's of a brown or white powder."
In the days after the first reports of anthrax, Shedd said, his department was getting about six suspicious mail calls a day. Now, he said, they're getting one to three such calls a day.
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