Ohio Hospital Faces Vehicular Theft of Emergency Trailer

Feb. 22--BOWLING GREEN -- Wood County officials are scratching their heads over the apparent theft of an emergency management trailer that contained an inflatable decontamination shelter.

The trailer and its contents worth more than $23,000 came up missing Tuesday from a parking lot at Wood County Hospital.

"I would say it was a pretty bold move to pull up and hook up a trailer and haul it off," said Brad Gilbert, director of the county's Emergency Management Agency, which owns the equipment.

"We've gone through our records and the hospital has gone through theirs, and neither agency authorized anyone to take it. So it is definitely an unauthorized use."

Bowling Green police were called to the hospital just after 9 p.m. Tuesday after a hospital security guard noticed the trailer was missing from the parking lot behind the hospital's power plant where it is stored, said Catherine Harned, hospital spokesman.

Hospital officials told police it disappeared between 3:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday.

"It was locked. It had a lock on the ball [of the trailer hitch] so someone must've figured out how to remove that lock," Ms. Harned said.

The equipment was purchased in fiscal year 2002 using federal homeland security funds, Mr. Gilbert said.

The trailer cost about $4,000, while the portable shelter cost more than $19,000.

The shelter provides a temporary but private location for someone exposed to hazardous materials, radiation, chemicals, or other contaminants to shower off before entering the hospital. It also allows the dirty water to be collected for proper disposal.

"The way things used to be done years ago is you literally got hosed off by a fire hose and that's how you were decontaminated, and they still do that at scenes to a point," Mr. Gilbert said.

"Now we have these fancy decontamination shelters that can be set up quickly. They provide more privacy and are warmer when it's cold and cooler when it's hot."

The county's EMA owns two similar units, one of which is kept at the Lake Township fire department and the other at the Troy Township fire department, Mr. Gilbert said.

He said he had no idea who might have taken the equipment from the hospital or why.

Ms. Harned speculated that someone might have just wanted the trailer and didn't know he or she was getting a decontamination tent as part of the deal.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.