Archive for Wednesday, October 10, 2001

County OKs purchase of masks

October 10, 2001

The Sept. 11 acts of terrorism on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as concerns about the threat of biological or chemical warfare, have prompted the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department to order $16,000 worth of protective gear for officers.

Leavenworth County commissioners approved the purchase Thursday.

Burdel Welsh, undersheriff, said, "Chances are we'll only use them for meth labs or maybe crowd control," Welsh said.

The county is running about 20 meth lab busts a year, Welsh said. Because of the hazardous materials used in manufacturing methamphetamine, officers wear facemasks and full-body protective suits. There may be as many as 13 officers helping with meth lab investigations, he said.

In previous years, facemasks have been on the sheriff department's budget, Welsh said. But they weren't purchased because at that time they were a lower priority than other supplies.

"With the circumstances, we decided to move the priority up," Welsh said.

Included in the purchase will be 50 face masks, 150 standard air filters and 50 air filters rated for nuclear, biological and chemical situations.

Also on the order are 15 amplifiers to make the speech of masked officers more clear, disposable full-body chemical suits, and booties.

County officers, who may be called to guard perimeters in the event of biological or chemical warfare, will need basic protection, Welsh said.

"It's our concern that while on a perimeter security point that there could be a wind shift of a person or vehicle could drag contamination to an officer," Welsh said.

Not enough masks and suits were ordered for all officers, Welch said. But the ones who will be out of the office on duty will have them.

When asked if the county expected to use the masks and suits for situations other than meth labs, Welsh responded: "I hope we never do."

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