Local Hospitals Prepare for Bioterrorism

America is now entering its second day of heightened security. The government raised the national security alert level to orange, or high, yesterday, as we head into the memorial day weekend. Since 9/11, we've seen tighter security and more police presence. But how prepared are we locally for a biological or chemical attack?

It's hard to say unless an attack were actually to happen. But our local hospitals, health professionals and emergency workers are working together to prepare as much as they can. Coastal Empire agencies like Candler Hospital are taking their own measures to be ready.

Registered nurse Leigh Craft is the Infection Control Manager at St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital. She says local hospitals meet regularly to plan for the unplanned and practice drills in case a "role play" scenario becomes reality.

"Part of our responsibility is to expect the unexpected so we're in a state of readiness at all times," she said. "We go step by step with each department's response, be it the emergency department, radiology, laboratory."

The hospital has a chemistry and immuno-testing analyzer that's capable of performing about 65 different types of tests, many in 20 minutes or less. Keeping up with technology like this allows hospitals like Candler to be better prepared in the event of a bioterrorist attack.

"Rapid response is the key in this type of situation," said Craft. "State-of-the-art equipment such as this allows us to process patient information more quickly and get that back to the physician so that we can treat the patient appropriately."

In the event of any emergency or attack, Craft says all hospitals will work together.

"That's the key to the emergency response," she told us. "The collective response of all the agencies together."

To learn more about how your local hospitals are taking steps to fight bioterrorism, Candler Hospital is offering a conference on bioterrorism, community preparedness and emergency response. It's tomorrow night at 7pm in Marsh Auditorium at Candler Hospital.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com