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Preparing for the unthinkable

 

Lincoln Co. emergency responders ready in case disaster strikes DNC

 

JENNA-LEY HARRISON

Staff Writer

If terrorism or other disasters threaten to disrupt the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week, Lincoln County emergency response workers will be ready to spring into action.

They trained earlier this year to deal with chemicals of mass destruction and are ready to carry out classified missions next week for the much-anticipated Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, according to Lincoln County EMS Deputy Director Ted Mankowski.

While Mankowski and other EMS officials are not anticipating the occurrence of a large-scale affliction at the DNC, they understand unexpected crises do happen and that while the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have certain terrorist organizations on their radar, they do not track “local, disgruntled” individuals who could attack.

“There are crazy people out there,” he said. “We do have concerns.”

Local paramedics along with Emergency Medical Services’ assistant supervisors, field training officers and Lincoln County members of the State Medical Assistance Team 700, or SMAT II, attended a one-week training session various times between April and August at the Center for Dometic Preparedness and Department of Homeland Security in Anniston, Ala., Mankowski said.

Courses included Hospital Emergency Response Training for Mass Casualty Incidents (HERT) and Hands-On Training (HOT) for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives, better known as CBRNE agents.

The courses specifically taught individuals how to handle certain “booby traps” and other potentially deceptive devices. In addition, workers trained in how to spot Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), use proper decontamination processes and gain first-hand experience with live biological agents in the CDP’s Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological Training Center.

Since 1998, the CDP has prepared thousands of local-level emergency response workers on how to handle a vast array of disasters.

In addition, the facility is the country’s “only congressionally-chartered Federal training facility for live chemical / nerve agents, also known as chemical weapons of mass destruction, for civilian emergency responders,” CDP Public Affairs employee Shannon Arledge wrote in a feature article on the CDP website.

The Lincoln County SMAT unit has participated in the appropriate trainings multiple times over the law few years, Mankowski told the Times-News last week.

Following the trainings, the team deployed as part of a statewide team for cleaning up both natural and man-made disasters across the state.

Lincoln County EMS plans to send two paramedics apiece to the DNC to work with SMAT and the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services’ Ambulance Strike Team, a unit comprised of five ambulances and one supervisor.

The AST, part of the state’s medical response system, is necessary during times when a regional event, like the DNC, draws a significant population to the area, overloading local emergency response teams. As a result, Mankowski said outside agencies in surrounding counties, not directly impacted by the event, unite and send resources to the location to assist local agencies in case an emergency occurs.

“It’s a way to provide resources to an area that’s hit and that’s not going to have local resources (available) or needs additional assistance,” he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises local emergency response agencies to be “self-sufficient” in the first 48 hours following a disaster or other crisis before federal help arrives, Mankowski said.

He noted the Strike Teams and other local mutual aid agencies “provide for the gap in time.”

“It’s a concept of working as a team and coordinating the efforts at a disaster,” he said.

Further details on what the workers will be doing at the Convention have yet to be disclosed.

“The exact ‘missions’ that our crews will be participating in is still classified,” Mankowski said.

Lincoln County EMS also has a mutual aid agreement for next week with Gaston and Mecklenburg Counties.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office will also stand ready with deputies to backup Gaston County law enforcement in the event of an emergency.

“We are on stand-by here if they should need something,” Sheriff David Carpenter said.

The Democratic National Convention will take place Tuesday through Thursday.

 

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