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BOWLING GREEN - Sheriffs and police chiefs from 18 northwest Ohio counties got their first briefing yesterday on the resources available to them in case of a bioterrorism attack.
Toledo's Metropolitan Medical Response System, created to serve residents within a 25-mile radius of the city, has been expanded into a regional system that could share resources as far away as Allen and Mercer counties.
"We said from the beginning that any resources we had, we would share if they were available at the time," said Mike Wolever, assistant fire chief in Toledo and coordinator of the response system. "The Ohio Department of Health has contracted with us to coordinate planning for all 18 counties."
Meetings with public health agencies from the region began in 2002, but this was the first time law enforcement agencies met to be briefed on supplies available to them and the need for their cooperation in case of a terrorist attack or natural disaster in northwest Ohio.
With nearly $2 million in federal and state funds since 1998, Chief Wolever said the response system has access to stockpiles of key vaccines and has developed a local cache of medical supplies that could be used immediately after a disaster before state and federal resources arrived.
"A lot of this is still a work in progress," he said. "We're currently building mobile caches of medical supplies to supplement a local hospital or, if we saw the need to open an ancillary emergency hospital, we'd have the supplies to do it."
The plan takes "an all-hazards approach," Chief Wolever said, meaning it could be applicable in the event of any kind of disaster in the region, including tornadoes and plane crashes.
Sandusky County Sheriff David Gangwer said he's attended a number of terrorism-preparedness meetings across the state but found yesterday's meeting at the Wood County sheriff's office most valuable.
"This is northwest Ohio. Now we know who to contact," he said, adding, "I think Toledo's done a wonderful plan. They're way ahead."
Chief Wolever was in fact working on emergency response planning years before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that roused many from complacency.
"One of the bright things that came out of that disaster was that people finally said, 'OK, this is real,'●" the chief said.
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