Drilling on Bioterrorism
State and city leaders are preparing to hold what they say is the largest bioterrorism drill ever conducted. This spring, they will pretend that three Oklahoma cities are contaminated with deadly diseases.
During the three-day drill, scheduled to begin April 12, McAlester officials will respond to a scenario that pneumonic plague was released into the city. Tulsa will deal with smallpox, and Lawton will deal with botulism, said Dr. Robert Petrone, bioterrorism and response coordinator for the state Health Department.
Petrone met with McAlester officials Thursday to begin planning the drill. Officials discussed using jelly beans as simulated antibiotics. Pneumonic plague is a disease that can be spread by aerosol.
The drill will begin in Oklahoma City on April 12 with a meeting attended by Gov. Frank Keating and heads of the state's executive agencies. The group will have to decide how to distribute antibiotics and vaccines, how to set up a quarantine and whether to restrict travel.
The decisions made by the group will not affect the second day of the drill, when officials in each city have to deal with the pretend outbreaks. The local leaders will have to come up with plans to treat the sick and prevent the disease from spreading. They also will consider how to inform the public and how to organize volunteers and emergency personnel. On the last day of the drill, April 15, officials in the three cities and state officials will meet through a video conference to talk about the process, Petrone said. The discussion will help set policies to protect against bioterrorism.
The drill, called "Sooner Spring," is a joint project of the state Health Department and the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, which is part of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. The exercise is a follow-up to a two-day program at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington last summer dubbed "Dark Winter." That drill used the scenario that Iraqi-financed Afghan terrorists were spraying smallpox viruses into shopping centers in Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Atlanta.
The event was sponsored by four think tanks, including the Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism.
Saying Oklahoma law is largely silent on the subject, Sen. Frank Shurden said Friday he will introduce legislation to set penalties for terrorist activity. "Before Sept. 11 and the Anthrax-laced mail scares that followed, I don't think many people thought we needed to have a state law that specifically addressed terrorist attacks or hoaxes," said Shurden, D-Henryetta. "Obviously, we're living in a different world today where such laws are a necessity. I think it's important to give law enforcement officials one more weapon to fight the war against terrorism."
Shurden's bill defines an act of terrorism, biochemical terrorism and a terrorism hoax and outlines stiff penalties for offenders. For instance, anyone convicted a terrorism could face a life prison term.
Singing in the run
Stillwater native Scott Cloud Lee will be serving double (patriotic) duty this month, serving as an Olympic torch runner Friday and as a singer-songwriter contributing three songs to the compilation CD, America Remembers: Sounds of Freedom. The CD contains 16 songs inspired by the events of Sept. 11 and will be produced by New Horizon Records. For more information, visit the company's Web site at www.eyesoffreedom.com.
Meet some Rangers
The Oklahoma RedHawks will host the Texas Rangers Winter Caravan at 7 p.m. Friday in the Bricktown Event Center, 429 E. California Ave. Visiting with the caravan will be Texas Rangers outfielders Gabe Kapler and Craig Monroe, pitcher Justin Duchscherer, Manager Bobby Jones, President and General Manager Tim O'Toole, Director of Player Development Trey Hillman, Bench Coach Terry Francona and lead radio announcer Eric Nadel. …