- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Montgomery County, Md. officials yesterday discussed their plans to confront acts of biological and chemical terrorism in an effort to ease the public's concerns in the wake of last month's terrorist attacks.
"People are scared right now. They're very nervous," said County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.
But Mr. Duncan added that the county's work force has been preparing for biological or chemical attacks since 1995.
Mr. Duncan suggested that the county's 810,000 residents focus on living normally. He also urged people to stop worrying about biological or chemical threats.
"We have some of the most highly trained professional people in the country to respond to such an event," said Mr. Duncan.
The Democratic official has asked his department heads to review their equipment and resources by Tuesday to determine what can be done to strengthen the response plan.
In addition to the 1,600 members of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Department and the 1,040 sworn officers on the county's police force, officials also have trained public health and public works personnel to help mitigate the effect of any attack.
The county has portable decontamination equipment, hundreds of specialized protective suits, medical supplies and gas masks on hand for its "first responders." Residents are not being encouraged to acquire such gear because of the uncertainty that such an attack might occur locally.
"Where is your gas mask when you need it?" asked Dr. Carol W. Garvey, the county's health officer.
She also advised individuals not to stockpile antibiotics or other medicines, although the county does not maintain its own cache, depending instead on fast federal aid.
"The Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] has promised to have all kinds of antibiotics on site within 24 hours," said Dr. Garvey.
Officials of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) also said the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and New York's World Trade Center have prompted them to double security at its facilities.
As the provider of water and sewer service to 1.6 million customers in Maryland's Prince George's and Montgomery counties, WSSC has placed its pumping stations, treatment plants and reservoirs under 24-hour guard.
Water is tested for 170 different compounds, and the transmission lines and treatment facilities are electronically monitored, said WSSC General Manager John R. Griffin.
Still, the utility executive joined county officials in calling for vigilance by individual residents.
"Look for unusual situations, and if you see something, call 911," Mr. Griffin said.

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