County stages bioterrorism drill

The Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management held a training excercise this week which simulated an outbreak of smallpox.

Considering the disease has been all but eradicated, any smallpox outbreak is considered to be a terrorist act, according to director of Emergency Management Phyllis Mann.

The department schedules two training sessions a year to prepare for various emergencies. This week was the first time it addressed a terrorism scenario, according to Mann.

“We do extremely well in the handling and managing of natural disasters,” she said. “Terrorism represents a different scenario, but requires the same skills and uses the same people. We’ve been drilling for years, and we all play nice together.”

Mann’s department, with four core employees, is moving to an undisclosed location in September.

“We don’t advertise our location because of security and the fact we are not a publicly accessible service,” Mann said.

The training exercises are all carefully planned and, unlike a school fire drill, no surprise to any of the participants.

“We ask ourselves, can we manage this event?” Mann said. “How do we interface with the law? Do we have enough volunteers to handle an incident?

The next exercise is scheduled for March, and will test reactions to a terrorist-driven disease outbreak. Mann said the county will be prepared for any disaster that strikes before then.

“We have been planning this for three years,” she said. “We know how to handle these situations.”

Incidentally, Mann has decided to not seek damages from a Seattle radio station which aired an April Fool’s joke having to do with Bremerton’s water supply which caused a mild panic.

“I was pretty spun up about this for a while,” she said. “But I decided it was better to forgive and forget.”

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