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Published: Wednesday, 1/12/2005

Video aims to enlighten local residents

BY KARAMAGI RUJUMBA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Michael Wolever, Toledo's assistant fire chief, has seen his fair share of disasters over the years, but what he dreads most is a bioterrorist attack or a naturally occurring public health epidemic in northwest Ohio.

At the moment, such an incident could lead to a catastrophe for the area.

It would not be because of a failure of the emergency response system but a general ignorance of the impact of such an incident, Chief Wolever said.

That is why an agency he coordinates, the Toledo-Lucas County Metropolitan Medical Response System, has partnered with area colleges and health departments to produce a 60-minute video documentary outlining what area residents should do and what they could expect in the event of a terrorist-related or public health emergency.

The documentary, which will be produced in conjunction with WGTE-TV, Channel 30, is expected to air on the PBS station as early as May, said Darren LaShelle, WGTE's director of broadcast services.

"We've been working on the development of a regional response to a bioterrorist attack for a long time, and part of it involves getting the general public to understand what such an incident would look like," Chief Wolever said.

He explained that, in the past, the Toledo police and fire departments as well as the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department were not prepared to handle such an incident.

"We can now go to the public and say that this is what you need to know, and this is what will happen," he said.

Chief Wolever said the critical decisions for the first responders would be the coordination of different entities, such as schools, hospitals, and public transportation. And because deadly diseases are likely to travel faster today than they did 50 years ago, an early detection system can work only when people are aware of what to look out for.

"We hope that the film will help people recognize what their role will be during a public health emergency," the chief said. "The whole point of this project is to get the right information out to people in a timely manner, because if people know what is going on, then they are less likely to panic."

The $25,000 documentary is being funded by the Metropolitan Medical Response System.



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