Iowa’s Homeland Security Advisor says the recent “white powder” incidents are being reviewed to see if there needs to be changes in how HAZMAT crews respond. The incidents were in Des Moines and Boone, and all of the substances that were suspicious turned out to be harmless. Ellen Gordon, who also heads the state’s emergency management division, says it’s something they’re looking at. She says she believes we have nationwide, not just in Iowa, some critical policy decisions to make on how to best use resources to respond to such incidents. Gordon says there are only 17 critical response teams in Iowa, and their resources can be stretched thin very quickly. One of the incidents involved a white powder found in a tunnel that connects state government buildings in Des Moines. Governor Vilsack said there may’ve been some overreaction in sealing off the tunnel and calling in the HAZMAT crews. Gordon says that’s a fair question. She says they want to make sure they’re using their resources properly and she says the tunnel incident is an example to learn from and build from. Gordon says the procedures and protocols were followed properly when the tunnel material was discovered. Gordon says they will learn from studying the incidents. She says they have a better understanding of the cause and effects and the unintended consequences of the actions they take. She says they’ll take advantage of that and be sure when they call in they have certain thresholds and take into account the consequences when they have to call in special teams to deal with the materials.
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