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DHS news release

June 8, 2007


Media contact: Tom Towslee 971-673-0396, 503-559-0652 (cell)

Program contact: Eric Clark 503-229-5882 (ext. 2245)


Oregon to participate in “dirty bomb” response drill


The Oregon Public Health Division will participate next week with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories in a full-scale public health preparedness exercise to evaluate the region’s response should an actual terrorism event occur.


Four eastern Oregon counties – Baker, Malheur, Union and Wallowa – will be involved in the drill along with Oregon State Public Health Laboratory in Portland and Holy Rosary Medical Center in Ontario. Other states involved in the test include Idaho, Washington, Alaska, Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, California, Mississippi and Montana.


Under the computer-generated scenario that will begin Thursday several “dirty bombs,” known as radiological dispersal devices, are detonated in eastern Oregon. In the aftermath of this mock disaster, blood and urine samples are collected, turned over to Oregon State Public Health Laboratory officials and transported to the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories in Boise for processing. The specimens are then forwarded to the CDC and other state labs, which perform tests to determine the status of each potentially fictitious exposed individual.


“These types of drills are an important element in making sure that we have a fast, accurate and complete response to public health concerns in the event we ever experience a real disaster,” said Eric Clark, Oregon Chemical Terrorism Laboratory coordinator at the state Public Health Division.


The goal of the exercise is to test the system that would be used in the case of a real emergency to collect samples from victims, safely transport the specimens and test them at appropriate facilities, including flying them to CDC facilities in Atlanta, GA.


The nine-day drill will also test the Laboratory Response Network, which was established by the CDC in 1999 to respond to biological and chemical terrorism, and other public health emergencies. The network has grown since its inception to include state and local public health, veterinary, military, and international labs. The network was used in 2001 in response to an Anthrax attack and has played a vital role in the development and deployment of a new test that can detect the H5N1 avian flu virus.