Nebraska not a prime terror target, still...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker Kathy Troccoli and Kearney author Dee Brestin joked during last week's women's conference about Nebraska's potential as a terrorist target.

On first blush, comparing the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on Manhattan Island to the cornfields of Southwest Nebraska does seem laughable.

But that doesn't mean the the Cornhusker state can't or shouldn't be prepared.

In fact, Red Willow and other counties have extensive emergency plans in place and have put Homeland Securty funds to good use.

And, believe it or not, the largest biocontainment facility in the country is right here in Nebraska -- at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

And, it's not just for weapons like anthrax, smallpox or other bioterror weapons -- it's designed to defend against avian flu and other outbreaks as well.

The 10-bed unit is the brainshild of Dr. Phillip Smith, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

When Osama bin Laden warned last week that America should be ready for another attack, Gov. Dave Heineman didn't take it lightly. "We're not immune from attack," he said. "Every American needs to understand, we don't know where the next terrorist attack is coming."

The Omaha facility includes specialized filters that will kill germs in the air, and blood samples, X-rays and everything else that leaves the unit will be sterilzed first.

Special video phones will link patients and families who might be separated for weeks.

The facility's specially-trained staff of 30 all volunteered for the dangerous duty.

It is that spirit of duty and sacrifice that weaves its way through the fabric of emergency responders throughout Nebraska.

Are we in al Qaeda's crosshairs?

We hope not. But we can never be sure, and thankfully, officials whose duty it is to keep us safe will never take anything for granted.

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