Health Board needs volunteers for emergency exercise

About 60 volunteers are needed for an exercise designed to test the local response to a dirty-bomb radiological attack.

The Clayton County Board of Health Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response needs volunteers to take part in the "Clayton County Radiological Incident Response Full Scale Exercise," on April 5, from 8 a.m., to 4 p.m., according to Joel Hall, spokesman for the board of health.

The exercise will occur in three locations, which include the Forest Park Recreation Center, 803 Forest Parkway, Forest Park; the Kiwanis Stadium, 144 Lake Drive, Forest Park, and Southern Regional Medical Center, 11 Upper Riverdale Road, Riverdale, according to Hall.

Interested individuals must contact Debra Taylor, calling her, at (678) 610-7471, or e-mailing her at: Dtaylor1@dhr.state.ga.us, March 1, according to Hall.

"The responsibility of the Clayton County Board of Health is to help prepare the public ... Part of the responsibility ... is to help safeguard the public in case of a biological attack, radiological attack or natural disaster," Hall said.

Volunteers must be 14 years of age, or older, and must attend two training courses, which last three-and-a-half hours each, Hall said.

The board of health will offer the courses in March, but the exact date has not been determined. There is no residency requirement to volunteer, he said. Participants will receive a free lunch and a certificate of participation, he added.

The scenario for the exercise is about a dirty bomb that explodes somewhere in Forest Park, said Hall. Kiwanis Stadium will serve as ground zero for the incident.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's web site –– www.cdc.gov –– a dirty bomb is a mixture of explosives, such as dynamite, with radioactive powder or pellets. When it is set off, the blast releases radioactive material into the surrounding area.

"We're going to have volunteers role-playing people who have been impacted the radiation, and first responders will be in full radiation gear to assess the victims," said Hall. "Southern Regional Medical Center, Forest Park Fire/EMS, and the Clayton County Emergency Management Agency will all be co-coordinating this exercise."

Furthermore, said Hall, the Forest Park Recreation Center will serve as a Community Reception Center for the "victims" during the exercise. "Victims" will be assessed, monitored for radiation and recommended for treatment, which depends on the severity of their injuries, he explained.

Southern Regional Medical Center will be used as a decontamination area, added Hall.

"Some of the volunteers will be serving as staff in the Community Reception Center [Forest Park Recreation Center], so they may spend the entire day just at that center," he said. "Where they will be will be determined what their specific function is."

"We wanted to make sure the training was as real as possible, and that is why we only involved the jurisdictions in which the incident would take place," said Hall.

He said agencies interested in observing the exercise should contact Beth Durmire, with the Clayton County Emergency Management Agency, at (770) 478-8271.

Hall said this is the first time the Clayton Board of Health has coordinated the exercise.