Hospital officials met yesterday at the Washington Hospital Center to learn more about how to prevent a terrorist attack, including a suicide bombing.
“Be prepared to say, ‘I’m prepared to do everything in my power to stop a suicide bomber,’ ” Shbomo Ben Dor, a former security director of a hospital in Jerusalem, said during the Hospital Security Preparedness program at the hospital’s National Rehabilitation Center.
“Most hospitals are not prepared for attacks,” he said.
Though such attacks most often have occurred outside the United States, in April a mysterious package was found in the Washington Hospital Center.
“It was addressed to a woman at the State Department,” said Anthony Newton, head of security at the adjacent National Rehabilitation Center. “We couldn’t take chances. We closed sections of the hospital. It turned out to be harmless, but we couldn’t be sure.”
Last year, District lawmakers passed legislation that requires hospital security personnel to attend 24 hours of terrorism-awareness classes, said Lisa Rizzolo, operations manager for Simulation and Training Environment Laboratory (SiTEL) at the hospital center.
The program yesterday was part of the classes being conducted at SiTEL. The first course was in early June. Other courses are scheduled for the fall and next year. “Hospital directors don’t expect attacks and are not prepared,” Mr. Ben Dor said. “This course gives officers knowledge to detect and to head off attacks.”
The courses present several brief movies, including “the Suicide Bomber Phenomenon.” Explosive blasts were shown. Statistics stated that such blasts moved within range at 4.96 miles a second and created heat of 9,032 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mr. Ben Dor said terrorists can set off bombs with cell phones and even “old stop watches.” Officers also should watch out for packages that appear harmless but can explode when touched or moved.
Vehicle bombs are especially destructive, he said, citing one set off on Aug. 7, 1998, at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed 289 persons and injured 2,000.
“Get the awareness going,” said Mr. Ben Dor. “The mindset is not ‘if it happens,’ but ‘when it happens.’ ”