Ridge to observe Chicago terror drill

By AL SWANSON  |  May 14, 2003 at 4:29 PM
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CHICAGO, May 14 (UPI) -- Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge will observe terrorism drills with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Gov. Rod Blagojevich Thursday, officials said.

A mock plane crash was scheduled at Midway Airport as the city's hospitals coped with a mock bioterrorism attack that sent hundreds of volunteers to 60 emergency rooms.

About 150 mock victims had died by early afternoon Wednesday and there were unexpected injuries thrown at responders.

"We did not know everything to expect," city spokesman Larry Langford told WBBM-AM. "It's a very exciting time."

Under the drill's scenario, terrorists from the fictional group GLODO released a plague-like virus last Saturday. Victims began showing up at 60 emergency rooms Tuesday complaining of flu-like symptoms. About 40 volunteers in yellow T-shirts reading "role player" filled the ER at Sherman Hospital in Elgin. Mock patients coughed up blood, sneezed and complained of mysterious chills and fever, nausea and respiratory distress pretending they were unaware they were victims of a pneumonic plague attack.

Doctors in goggles and masks had to examine them and isolate contagious patients to control the spread of the contamination.

Ridge was to tour the Strategic Stockpile Distribution Center in Chicago where pharmaceuticals and antibiotics were stored for the drill. Mock panicking by those participating in the drill was added to the scenario. Ridge also was to observe response efforts during TOPOFF 2, short for Top Officials, exercises at the 911 center, one of the nation's most high-tech emergency telecommunications centers.

The FBI opened a $1 million regional command center at Argonne National Laboratory, 20 miles south of Chicago's Loop Wednesday -- the first of 56 such command posts planned around the country.

The five-day, $16 million terror attack simulation began with a mock radioactive "dirty bomb" detonation in Seattle Monday after two years of planning.

Chicago and Seattle each received $2.5 million in federal funds to pay responders and defray costs of the exercise involving dozens of state, city and federal agencies.

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