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Saturday, Apr. 19, 2014

Bioterrorism lessons offered

Friday, November 23, 2001

NEW MADRID - It is not a matter of if bioterrorists

will strike, it is a matter of when, David Spicer

bluntly told New Madrid County law enforcement

officers and city and county officials.

Spicer, who is with the Missouri Department of

Health's Emergency Management, has spent much of his

career in law enforcement. Today he works with the

state of Missouri to mesh the Department of Health's

services with those of law enforcement, on the local,

state and federal levels.

In making his presentation at the New Madrid County

Department of Health this week, Spicer explained that

terrorism is a crime committed with a political or

social objective. He also noted it is not a new idea,

dating bioterrorism back to 1343 when attackers

attempted to spread disease within a European city

under siege by catapulting dead bodies within the

town's walls and to the French and Indian Wars when

blankets infected by smallpox were given to Indians.

The problems bioterrorists face, Spicer said, are the

hazards involved in dealing with a deadly germ or

spore. "You can't always predict where it will

spread," he said, noting the terrorists are often

among those infected.

While most law enforcement officers prefer to believe

terrorists are a problem somewhere else, Spicer

pointed out extremist groups are found in Missouri.

These include the anti-abortion Creators Rights Party,

the Animal Liberation Front, Christian Identity

Movement, Black Hebrew Israelites and the Aryan

Brotherhood.

"But what I would look out for is ... the lone wolf,

the individual or the small select group," he warned

officials.

Also he urged the audience to take any threat they

hear seriously. "Be a responsible citizen. Idle

threats should be reported because it may prevent

violence," he said.

Spicer said since Sept. 11, his office has

investigated 150 credible threats - almost four times

the amount they investigated in the previous year.

Offering some criticism of the news media, he

emphasized that there have been no cases of anthrax in

Missouri.

Also Spicer offered his opinion on the recent anthrax

cases, describing them as "terrorism of opportunity"

and most likely the work of a domestic terrorist

rather than a foreign group. If profiling the suspect,

the officials said he would look for a white male,

between the ages of 30 and 50, with a science

background. "He could be married, but probably doesn't

have children. He probably doesn't go out much

either," he suggested.

Terrorists often target individuals because of their

politics, social standing, economic well-being and for

personal reasons. Spicer cautioned those attending

this could very well mean local political officials

and law enforcement officers.

He urged them to be aware of what groups or

individuals might target in their area and to work

with others, such as local pharmacists, to track

suspicious activities or changes in routines.

If they do face a possible act of chemical or

bioterrorism, Spicer said to handle the package as

little as possible. "Treat it as a threat until proved

otherwise," he said. "The odds are it will be nothing

but it is better to be safe than sorry."

As first responders to emergency situations, Spicer

offered law enforcement and city officials advice:

"Know your limitations. Don't become a victim

yourself."

He explained many terrorists today will not only

explode a bomb at a scene but will have a secondary

device timed to explode as assistance arrives. Spicer

theorized this might have been behind the Sept. 11

airplane crashes at the World Trade Center, pointing

out the planes were 18 minutes apart, and the plane,

which crashed in Pennsylvania, would have crashed into

the Pentagon as assistance was being provided the

victims of the first crash there.

Local health department officials were pleased with

the turnout of nearly two dozen people to Spicer's

presentation Tuesday night.

"This is a subject we all hoped we would never have to

prepare for," admitted Michelle Brazel, administrator

for the New Madrid County Health Department. But, she

continued, since Oklahoma City (bombing), Sept. 11 and

the anthrax scare, officials even in small rural

communities must face the possibility of bioterrorism.

"I think everyone was already aware of the possible

dangers but I hope they now realize they have a

resource they can call to get answers to their

questions. And if (Spicer) doesn't know, he will find

out for them," added Dr. Charles Baker, assistant

administrator for the Health Department.