CAHOKIA, Ill. – Folks in the Metro East may have seen a lot of smoke coming from the St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia. It wasn’t an emergency; it was first responders running a disaster drill.
The put the unusable hull of an old, burned-out Cessna 310 to good use Thursday afternoon, setting the wreckage ablaze as part of a simulated terrorist attack in which a plane was deliberately crashed to spread anthrax to stop the emergency response to another disaster.
The drill began earlier in the day, with first responders from 15 counties setting up what are called pod points of dispensing.
They would be in place to distribute medicine to the public quickly following the release of biological or chemical material that threatened the public.
In this drill, they added the disaster of a plane crashing on purpose to disrupt the distribution of medicine.
“This just helps us prepare for something that we hope never happens but to make sure that we’re doing this with the same fidelity and the same confidence that we do all the time and we did that,” said Amy Yeager, with the Illinois Department of Public Health. “We’ve come together as a region and that’s tremendous. This doesn’t happen very often across the country that you got two states that can come together with 15 counties to pull something like this off and be able to say we’re ready. We can do this.”
Three points of dispensing were established in the region for this exercise – one at the St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia, one in St. Louis City, and another in St. Louis County.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires these regional drills every five years.