- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

Emergency medical responders in the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department are being issued self-injection kits containing antidotes against chemical agents that could be used in terrorist attacks.
The Nerve Agent Antidote Kits have doses of atropine sulfate and chloride that can be injected into the thigh to block the effects of VX and sarin gas and other deadly, man-made nerve agents.
Fire department officials said yesterday they welcomed the arrival of the kits, and said it was a coincidence that they were distributed just after the nationwide terror alert was raised to Code Orange Feb. 7.
"We are on high alert," said Alan Etter, fire and emergency medical services spokesman. "But this is material we asked for a year ago to provide extra protection for our soldiers in the field."
The antidotes, issued mostly to U.S. military personnel, had been given only to the District's hazardous-materials response crews, but were authorized for medics under protocols issued in October.
In the event of a chemical attack, the first responding medical crews would inject themselves then treat victims.
Mr. Etter also said the District plans to train firefighters soon on how to use the kits. However, he said security reasons prevented him from giving further details about the number of kits received and where they would be distributed.
Kenneth Lyons, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3721, which represents the District's medics, expected the kits a month ago. He said he was optimistic they would help protect emergency crews.
"I think this is a good move," he said, "especially since it acknowledges emergency medical services as one of the pillars of public safety."
Mr. Lyons said medics have received training on how to administer the antidotes, which come in spring-loaded injectors that he described as simple to use.
He also said the medics were absolutely prepared to use the kits during a terrorist attack. "If [the department] can get them out, I'm sure the medics know how to use them," Mr. Lyons said.

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