Hospitals Prepare for NATO Attack, Perform Response Drills - FOX 32 News Chicago

Hospitals Prepare for NATO Attack, Perform Dirty Bomb Response Drills

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FIRST ON FOX: Suburban hospitals are preparing for a worst-case scenario during next month's NATO summit, in a FOX Chicago News exclusive.

At least ten hospitals performed drills, including Evanston Hospital, simulating a radioactive dirty bomb explosion. The "victims" are volunteers from the U.S. Navy's Great Lakes training center.

"We want to make sure that, as we're getting close to the NATO Summit, that our staff are ready and trained and able to take care of our community," NorthShore University HealthSystem's Dr. Brigham Temple said.

An estimated 500 medical professionals and other volunteers donned bulky protective suits, tested radiation detectors and ministered to about 100 US Navy recruits Wednesday.

They were posing as victims of a so-called "dirty bomb" that had exploded, leaving them with deadly radioactive cesium on their skin. Doctors and nurses would risk their own lives if they began treating the wounded before they are cleansed of radiation.

One thing everyone learned Wednesday is that the work is sweaty hard and the suits become steamy hot.

"Certainly, it is hot inside them," Dr. Temple said. "But we do have plans in place so that we rotate the staff through so they are in those suits for a fixed period of time, usually 20-30 minutes. Then we have a new set of staff that come through and take their place."

Dr. Temple said Wednesday's dirty bomb scenario had been worked out in conjunction with the Secret Service and the federal Dept of Homeland Security.

U.S. authorities are preparing in the days ahead to deploy black-suited federal agents in and around federal buildings downtown.

They'll set up checkpoints at entrances to the area and at individual buildings. From there to Evanston Hospital, where a young intern tried on a protective hood this evening, the watchword is "be prepared."

"If something does happen, God forbid, we'll be ready to do something about it," Dr. Michael George said.

While the feds said there is no specific, credible threat of an attack inside the United States, they did warn Thursday that a so-called "lone wolf" terrorist might try to mark the first anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden next week. That anniversary comes on May 2.

They're afraid that a rogue terroritst might take advantage of the cesium found in old nuclear plant waste leftover from the Cold War and use it in a suitcase bomb, or a dirty bomb like it.

*Clarification: After we posted our story, a spokesman said the 10 North Suburban hospitals developed the "dirty bomb" scenario in collaboration with four local public health departments and the Lake County Emergency Management Agency. Contrary to information supplied earlier, he said, they did not consult with either the U.S. Secret Service or the Department of Homeland Security. The four local public health departments are: the Lake County Health Dept., Cook County Health Dept., Evanston Health Dept., and the Skokie Health Dept.

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