Bioterrorism Equipment

By: Erica Hurtt
By: Erica Hurtt

Rockford will play a key role in the U.S. Postal Service's war on terrorism. The city's processing plant is one of only 14 sites in the country to test a new biohazard detection system.

Rockford postal employees are currently training to operate the high tech detection system and are excited to be on the frontline of a new age of security. The postal service's response to the October 2001 anthrax mail attacks is a biohazard detection system.

Field says, "We couldn't assume it wouldn't happen again. Our vulnerability was we’ll know. It shut down two of our biggest plants."

It also killed several people and cost the federal government millions of dollars. But now a system has been in development for almost a year. It uses DNA matching to detect the presence of anthrax.

Field also says, "We're very committed to this. If we get a positive we'll close the site down. We take this very seriously."

Within an hour, postal workers will be alerted the presence of anthrax. Along with the system comes an extensive emergency management plan.

Stephen says, "it's a unique opportunity and it gives us a head start on the planning. It's not just the equipment we're excited to have in the facility but the contingency plan."

Stephen says the system will not slow workers or effect service. More importantly it provides a new level of security.

"This system will give us peace of mind. We know we'll be able to detect it and act quickly and safeguard employees and the mailing public."

Testing will take place in Rockford for 30 days starting in early June. The goal is to have the system up and running at 282 major postal plants by June 2004.

The post office's goal was to conduct the tests in a variety of climates and environments. They wanted rural areas and big cities area and places like Rockford where anthrax exists naturally. Rockford postal employees were also open to the idea, which of course helps.


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