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Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

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Las Vegas WMD Preparations Improved Between Ricin Incidents

Las Vegas authorities bolstered their preparations to respond to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks in the years between two incidents involving the lethal toxin ricin, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported yesterday (see GSN, Oct. 23, 2008).

When city police in 2003 dealt with a suicidal biochemist who had injected himself with ricin, officers did not wear protective gear when handling materials and even left the scene without undergoing decontamination. The ambulance that took the man to the hospital also was not cleansed before resuming service.

Upon realizing they were dealing with ricin, authorities scrambled to decontaminate who might have been come into contact with ricin. Two emergency rooms that treated the victim and the police officers had to be closed.

When a suspicious substance found to be ricin was left in the lobby of a Las Vegas hotel last year, the city was much better prepared; (see GSN, April 17, 2008). A multijurisdictional WMD response force created in 2005 identified the agent in 23 minutes and checked the surrounding areas for contamination within hours (Brian Haynes, Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 28).

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