QUINTAS DIAS. F—– was a state policeman. He was in his 30s, nice-looking with a pleasant disposition. He’d been on the force for four years and was the designated area hazmat officer.
We were having dinner at Tio’s an excellent Mexican restaurant and talking shop. The topic switched to Texas and the recent death of T.E. Duncan the Liberian Ebola victim. F——– expressed his regrets over Duncan’s death. That is all I needed to bore in.
I asked what preps the police were taking to face an infectious disease outbreak. F——- grimaced and glanced away.
“Dude, come on, ain’t gonna go public with who you are… I’ll deep background ya, my word on it.” I said, hoping this might prompt F—— to open up.
I asked him if the police agencies were being issued PPEs and training on when and how to use this protective gear. F—— said. “I’ve got my Tyvek hazmat suit, respirator and other stuff and that’s it.” I asked him to explain. F——- added that he was part of the state hazmat response task force, a specialized unit. A brief silence ensued. He knew what I was thinking. “No, I’m it in the district… The other guys don’t have a damn thing, or have the training either.”
I told him what I knew about the circumstances of several Texas cops allegedly displaying Ebola symptoms. The cops had been dispatched to serve a search warrant at the Duncan residence.
I asked him if he had heard about the ISIS terrorist cell apprehended on the border by the border cops. He shook his head. I got mad. F—– looked around to see who was watching. I lowered my voice and shot him a look.
“Dude you and the guys, if you don’t get heads out of asses are in MF city.”
F——- look pained and agreed. He confirmed that the state police lacked PPEs and response protocols. There was little or no inter-agency hazmat training. The state had a hazmat unit, were good, but were dispersed and too few to handle any type of sustained chemical or bacteriological onslaught. The local cops were hopelessly behind.
I was getting hotter. I asked him if he was aware of lessons learned in the Mumbai terrorist assault and if he knew about terrorists blowing up a hospital in Yemen recently.
“Jesus, didn’t know about that.” He replied. I asked him what management was doing to upgrade training and equipment to contend with infectious diseases or running into an ambush set to prep a kill zone to take out first responders, or to respond to an active shooter situation at a health care facility. F——- looked sick and shrugged.
“What are you guys doing about intelligence.” I asked. “Well, I brief the locals on what we know.” I asked him if clinics and hospitals were tied into a formal intelligence network. He shook his head.
F—– said there had been no contingency plans or consideration to involve health care facilities, medical personnel in assessing security at health care facilities, planning a mutual aid response, target hardening or protecting paramedics, patients, and nurses on site.
Then F——- said something that electrified me. “I’m up to speed on hazmat scenarios, know the protocols and how to use my stuff… but I gotta say most of the guys, and that includes me will probably not go on a call.” He added that the bottom line was that the cops couldn’t handle it.
I shot back that he and the guys needed to put heat on the goddamn politicians and the highers. F——- snickered.
We did a high five half-heartedly, as we pushed our plates away and got up to leave. I paid and watched F——- saunter over to his cruiser. He nodded at me and drove away.
I felt sick and depressed.
In sum, the state police and most of the local police were not ready to handle a terrorist attack on any major facility, including a medical facility, lacked equipment and training, and were behind the power curve. Management did not seem very concerned or aware. Hospitals and clinics were not part of an integrated intelligence network.
The bummer man is full of [expletive]. DHS is full of it. So is the NIH and the CDC…buncha puffed up morons.
I knew what would happen to F——- if he choose to go public. He’ be fired instantly. He’d loose all of his benefits, his pension and he’d go on the do-not- hire blacklist. F——- was doomed to shoveling [expletive] in a chicken coop if he blew the whistle.
I drove home in a very black mood.
F——- is a good cop and a good man. He has a nice family. Doctor Bennet is also a good man. Nurse Angela, is a sweet matron with wonderful bedside skills. They all are part of our first line response community. People live or die based on their skills, perceptions and willingness to get involved.
When I got home, I checked the latest news reports. The nurse’s condition in Spain is worsening. Possible Ebola cases were reported in Austria, a British citizen was reported dead in Macedonia from possible Ebola. A recent poll indicated a majority of Americans wanted incoming flights from Africa’s hot zones stopped, while Ebola cases were reported in France, an Ebola cluster in Spain, and three Texas cops were now reported symptomatic. To top it off Ebola burial crews in Sierra Leone were going on strike.
And our elected leaders, WTF about them? What were they doing? Well, one politician was calling for napalming African villages in the hot zones. An American reporter was decrying media and official lack of transparency regarding the pandemic EV68 virus outbreak, killing kids and adults and rendering others with a polio-like paralysis.
CLICK… I turned off the news. I had had enough. Just before staring off at the wall numb, I caught a flash of a headline on the computer. I brought up the article and smiled.
The American people were buying up all the emergency gear they could get their hands on. Emergency gear suppliers were reporting up to 240% spikes in sales on: face masks, gloves, booties, disinfectants, protective suits, gas masks and all kinds of emergency gear, including manuals.
Good. That underscored something about the American people I had learned a long time ago. They were always far ahead of the goddamn politicians and were taking their security into their own hands.
I lingered on a thought. Perhaps these people could be inspired to help F——-, and the little nurses out there left on their own to cope with a prolonged infectious disease outbreak and to form protective details to provide some physical security protection for our first responders and medical facility staff.
The thought cheered me.
I bet they will.