By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
WARREN -- In a corner of a damp Trumbull County Emergency Management Agency storeroom sits a $4,000 box of biological warfare testing equipment that no one knows how to use.
That box arrived in the last week or two, said Linda Beil, the agency director. An additional $11,000 worth of gas detectors, disposal kits and exercises are expected to arrive in the mail any day, she said.
"It is not a waste of money if it is for the protection of people," Beil said.
Directions to buy the equipment, as well as the money to do so, filtered down to the county agency from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, she said.
Training needed: "I'm just hoping they will offer us training in how to use it," she said.
The U.S. Department of Justice is handing out $2.6 million this year to Ohio county agencies to prepare for attacks by weapons of mass destruction, said Dick Kimmins, a spokesman for the Ohio EMA, which is managing the program in the state.
The Department of Justice will be giving a away "at least that much" in Ohio next year, he said.
So far, none of Ohio's 88 counties has said it doesn't want its share. Urban and rural alike, they are preparing for a terrorist attack.
"Unfortunately, terrorism is something that can happen and we are preparing for it," Kimmins said.
It is not the most common disaster, however. Flooding causes the most deaths and property damage in Ohio, and the state experiences an average of 16 tornadoes a year, he said.
If the Trumbull County EMA was spending its own money, it would not have been for poison gas-detecting equipment, Beil said. A more pressing need is for a computer projector that could be used in classes and to lead training sessions, she said.
Other equipment: Their agency's request for next year's give-away included items that would be usable in other types of emergencies, including gas masks, protective suits, portable decontamination showers and a 36-foot truck outfitted as a mobile command and communications center, she said.
It is not known if the department will give Trumbull County all of its $50,000 request.
Before long, Trumbull County authorities should learn how to use the equipment they have already received, Kimmins said. A training kit due in one of the future deliveries will make using the gas detectors "self-explanatory," he said.
The state agency is also planning to hold training sessions, which have not yet been scheduled, he said.
They need to be held soon in order to do any good. Detection strips that make the gas detectors work are stamped with a June 2003 expiration date.