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EDM Wednesday Briefing: Eleven People in VA Become Sick After Opening Letter

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for February 28, 2018: Eleven people fall ill at a joint base in Virginia after opening a substance-containing letter, Indiana’s Governor makes disaster declaration for 11 counties, the Florida school shooting suspect refused continue mental health treatment at 18, Florida’s governor is proposing $500 million to help secure the state’s schools, a new United Nations report says that North Korean shipped supplies to support Syria’s chemical weapons program, at least 15 people are dead following a 7.5 earthquake in Papua New Guinea, IV fluids under scrutiny as shortage continues, and a Southwest Airlines flight experiencing engine trouble returns for an emergency landing at Salt Lake City.

  1. Eleven people began feeling ill, including some Marines, [link url=”” title=”after opening a letter with an unknown substance”]  at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia Tuesday evening, which triggered a HAZMAT situation. The letter was opened in an administration building which was evacuated after the substance was discovered. The Arlington Fire Department stated that [link url=”″ title=”three people had been transported to the hospital”], where they were treated and released. 
  2. The Governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, [link url=”” title=”has declared a disaster emergency for 11 counties in the state “]after heavy rainfall across the state led to significant flooding and infrastructure damage. The declaration paves the way for federal assistance, and is the first step in achieving a federal disaster declaration. [link url=”” title=”The declaration may be expanded to include additional counties”] since more rain is predicted across the southern part of the state. 
  3. New information has emerged about the school shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz, 19, including [link url=”” title=”a refusal to continue mental health services once he turned 18 years old”]. Reports also indicate that in 2017, Cruz was removed from Marjory Stoneman Douglas School due to unspecified behavior issues. Police also discovered [link url=”” title=”swastikas ammunition magazines”] that he took with him into the building on February 14, and believe the suspected gunman may have stopped shooting because his gun jammed when he attempted to reload. 
  4. Florida Governor, Rick Scott, stated that he wants the school shooting in Parkland, Florida to be the last, and is set to spend [link url=”” title=”$500 million on increased law enforcement and mental health counselors at schools”]. Other measures that Scott wants to see implemented include increasing building security with metal detectors and opening an anonymous tip line. Other measures proposed by Gov. Scott include [link url=”” title=”installing bullet-proof glass, steel doors, and upgraded locks”]. 
  5. A new report from the United Nations indicates that [link url=”″ title=”North Korea has been supplying Syria with materials for their chemical weapons factories”]. The report, which has not yet been released, states that at least 40 unreported shipments were made from 2012 to 2017, and included items such as acid-resistant tiles, valves, and pipes, all of which appear to have been paid for by front companies. The findings follow new reports of [link url=”” title=”chlorine allegedly being used in attacks perpetrated by Syrian forces”], which has been denied by the government.   
  6. [link url=”” title=”A major 7.5 earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on Monday”], killing at least 15 people, injuring dozens more, and triggering massive landslides. The island also suffered damages to its mining and infrastructure, and the quake caused [link url=”″ title=”the shutdown of a major ExxonMobile liquefied natural gas plant”]. Officials noted that the death toll is likely to rise, as access by emergency personnel to remote areas has been cut off by land slips and the disruption of services.  
  7. A recent study conducted by Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, found that the saline used for intravenous fluid therapy (IV) has [link url=”” title=”a high concentration of sodium and chloride, and may cause kidney damage”]. Instead, a balanced solution, which includes [link url=”” title=”components such as potassium, and more closely align with the blood’s natural plasma”], can reduce effects on the kidney, helping to prevent kidney damage and failure. [link url=”” title=”IV supplies have been in short supply”] since three of the major manufacturing facilities reside in Puerto Rico and were impacted by Hurricane Maria that devastated the island last September. 
  8. A Southwest Airlines flight departing Salt Lake City for Los Angeles early Tuesday morning [link url=”″ title=”was forced to turn back”] after the pilots received an engine performance indication in the cockpit. Shortly after the take-off of Flight 604, [link url=”” title=”one of the aircraft’s engines appeared to have caught fire”], forcing the pilots to return to Salt Lake City. [link url=”″ title=”The pilots declared an emergency and were able to land the aircraft safely”], with no reported injuries as a result of the incident. 

Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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