The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday December 2nd

Town, County Officials Examine Response System

In Chapel Hill, precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of anthrax through the mail. Administrative technician Vickie Hackler now wears latex gloves at work, along with two other employees who handle mail on a daily basis.

"They just told us to wear the latex gloves while we are sorting the mail," Hackler said.

Precautions at the county level have also recently been reviewed.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department presented the Orange County Board of Commissioners with a detailed plan for how the county could handle emergencies, including terrorist attacks and the spread of anthrax, at the board's Tuesday night meeting.

Officials discussed everything from the county's emergency response procedure -- dubbed the Orange County Multi-Hazard Plan -- to concerns including civil unrest, attacks on infrastructure and technology, mass fatality and hazardous materials.

Rosemary Summers, Orange County health director, said when a substance is sent to be tested for anthrax, preliminary results are available within 24 hours, but final results usually take about four days to compile.

In addition to policing potential threats of anthrax, county officers have been checking suspicious vehicles and closely patrolling county buildings to help detect suspicious activity under the multi-hazard plan.

Commissioner Alice Gordon expressed several concerns, including how a resident should report suspicious activity.

"What are the guidelines for reporting suspicious activity?" Gordon said. "If you see something kind of unusual, what are you supposed to do?"

Nick Waters, director of Orange County Emergency Management, said residents should report any suspicious activity to 911 and the information will be passed on to the appropriate department.

Gordon also questioned whether the county had evacuation procedures.

Waters said even though there is not a set evacuation plan for the entire county, there are procedures for specific situations within defined areas.

Under the multi-hazard plan, prison inmates are being closely monitored.

County police officials are also maintaining contact with local, state and federal agencies to exchange information on potential terrorist activity or civil unrest.

Commissioner Stephen Halkiotis ended the presentation by commending the staff. He addressed Summers, Waters and Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass, calling them "proactive people."

"I think the citizens of Orange County need to know that," Halkiotis said. "I'm going to sleep OK tonight just knowing you guys are out there doing your jobs."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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