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Mail Workers Hold Drill, Prep For Possible Attack

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) – You might be getting an important, unexpected package in the mail this weekend as part of a drill to get the Twin Cities ready in case of a chemical terrorist attack.

On Sunday morning, the U.S. Postal Service, together with the Minnesota Health Department, will deliver a simulated supply of medicine in four zip codes: 55101 and 55102 in Saint Paul; and 55411 and 55422 in Minneapolis, Golden Valley and Robbinsdale. The effort is called “Operation Medicine Delivery.”

The Twin Cities area is the first metropolitan area in the country to develop a comprehensive plan where postal personnel distribute preventative medication. The whole point behind the operation is to be ready in case of a large-scale terrorist attack, like an anthrax release.

The Minnesota Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, said the operation is not intended to get people concerned. However, it is supposed to simulate the response in case of a chemical outbreak.

“We’re thinking of this as an anthrax event,” he said. “If it did happen we would need to get more than 3 million people in the metropolitan area antibiotics within 48 hours if possible. If we can’t do that the result could be many thousands of deaths.”

Forty postal delivery teams will deliver the pill bottles. Some 37,000 households will get them Sunday. Postal teams will be escorted by law enforcement personnel.

Only after the drill happens will the health officials determine if it will be used in a real-life emergency, Ehlinger said.

“It’s practicing something,” Ehlinger said. “But’s it’s also gaining a lot of information.”

Pete Nowacki, a U.S. Postal Service spokesperson, said the operation is intended to give the agency an indication of how it would work on the ground.

“We wanted to get kind of that geographical mix — that feel of what a normal day is going to be like,” he said.

Nowacki said residents can expect to receive the delivery sometime between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Mary Fisher, a Minneapolis resident, said she sees some benefits to the drill, but she hopes the plan never actually goes into effect.

“I guess if there’s something like this, that’s the thing to do,” she said.

Other cities across the country will be watching this pilot program closely. Philadelphia, San Diego and Boston are working to apply this program in their cities.

After receiving the bottles, residents are encouraged to recycle them. Instructions will be on the bottles.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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