By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
Today (Thursday) America observes 9/11 for the 13th year since the day terrorists attacked the United States at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and when brave passengers sent a fourth plane being used as a bomb into a field in Pennsylvania.
A total of 2,996 people died immediately in the attacks, including the 19 hijackers, the 246 people on the four planes, 2,606 people in the Twin Towers or on the ground in New York City and 125 people in the Pentagon.
In Chase County, it’s a little difficult to believe that terrorists could affect its inhabitants. But, as Chase County Emergency Manager Duane Dreiling said, “A terrorist act could be anything.”
“Everyone is vulnerable at some point,” he said, whether at the school, the hospital or the lake.
An airplane could drop something in the area.
Dreiling and his team prepare for “a little bit of everything.” A disaster could be anything from weather related to ag related, such as anhydrous ammonia leaks or chemical spills, he said.
Dreiling said his team, law enforcement, the fire departments and Chase County Community Hospital (CCCH) train together, using “table top” instruction to address specific problems.
Heidi Wheeler, Emergency Response Coordinator for Southwest Nebraska Public Health District, said a recent table top exercise addressed what would happen if an explosion occurred at CCCH and x-ray and other equipment were destroyed.
“We set up alternate care sites in case they got destroyed,” Wheeler explained.
She and the above-mentioned entities have also prepared for mass casualty incidents. “We plan to do more of that down the road,” Wheeler noted, “especially since the train derailment near Benkelman.”
The hospitals are always working on a patient surge scenario, she added, when a large number of patients need help at a hospital at the same time.
In addition, the Community Preparedness Committee, which meets once a year, has planned for a rapid deployment of medications, such as for an anthrax attack, within 48 hours.
Asked how a small community could be affected by terroristic acts, Wheeler said, “I foresee that if we have terrorist incidents, they may be more local, home made, like pipe bombs or school shootings.”
Wheeler said that as with 9/11, “Most of the time terrorists are looking for a large amount of people in a small amount of space” to wreak havoc.