Massive drill held in Harlem to prepare for possible anthrax attack on NYC

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NEW YORK (PIX11) -- The city staged its largest ever surprise emergency response drill to prepare for the possibility of a potentially deadly anthrax attack.

About 1,500 staffers from 13 agencies took part in the exercise, which involved setting up 30 centers simultaneously in all five boroughs.

“Individuals would be able to walk to their nearest site, and within a very  short amount of time, they would be able to receive medications, not only for themselves, but for at least up to five other people,” said the Dr. Oxiris Barbot, first deputy commissioner at the city’s Department of Health.

A truck full of containers filled with supplies was unloaded and then they were brought into P.S. 153 in Harlem.  But the life-saving antibiotics cipro and doxycycline, which were fake, didn’t arrive until much later.

“The antibiotics that are coming under police escort, are being held up a little bit in real world conditions known as traffic.  Had this been a real emergency, they would have come under lights and sirens,” said Dr. Barbot.

The Department of Homeland Security and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are funding the $1.4 million massive exercise.  But not all New Yorkers thought it was worth it.

“Anthrax, it seems like a fad type of terrorist scare, and I don’t know how realistic it is, and why we’d be spending that kind of money on something like that,” said Hamilton Heights resident Blake Dibala.

“We want New Yorkers to know that in the event of an emergency, city agencies have the experience of working together, that we have plans in place,” said Dr. Barbot.