Gulfport Postal Facility Installs Anthrax Detection Device - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

06/01/05

Gulfport Postal Facility Installs Anthrax Detection Device

Mail in South Mississippi is now safeguarded against the threat of anthrax.

The Gulfport mail processing center just installed the newest high tech gear to detect bio hazards. It's part of the ongoing response to terrorist threats here at home.

The large purple device is nicknamed "Barney".

"Just a big vacuum cleaner that sucks up," one postal worker explained.

It does collect air samples from sorted mail. But the BDS, Biohazard Detection System, is considerably more advanced and much more expensive than a vacuum cleaner.

Postal worker John White can't explain the technical aspect. But he does know the device raises the comfort level of employees.

"We know that it's going to be detected. We know that we're going to be able to find it. And we'll find it in time that they'll actually be able to do something about it," said White.

If the device alerts to possible anthrax, an emergency plan unfolds. Local emergency workers recently staged a disaster drill based on anthrax detection.

Dewayne Martin is a postal inspector.

"This is where we're going to stage this and this is where we'll stage that. So, that if the incident were to occur, we'd be ready," he said.

The question you may be wondering, with all this high tech equipment, will it slow down the delivery of my mail? The simple answer is no. In fact, the system was designed and integrated so it doesn't hinder the normal flow of mail.

"That's the beauty of it. The folks that worked together on the operations and we want to sustain our operations and postal service to our customers," said facility manager, Larry Gray.

Postal workers are still getting accustomed to the new addition. It's a high tech sign of the times for all of America.

"I think we're ready. If the alarm goes off, we're prepared to meet that challenge," said Martin.

The Postal Service began developing the detection system after anthrax-tainted mail killed two postal workers in New Jersey in 2001. Nationwide, it will cost 750 million dollars to install the detectors at all 283 postal sorting facilities.

By Steve Phillips

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