'Dirty Bomb' Opens U.S. Bioterror Drillhttp://www.redorbit.com/news/science/66/dirty_bomb_opens_us_bioterror_drill/
Posted on: Monday, 12 May 2003, 06:00 CDT By GENE JOHNSON
SEATTLE (AP) -- A national bioterrorism drill for hundreds of firefighters, police and other emergency workers began Monday with a mock explosion of a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a car in a Seattle industrial lot.
Meanwhile, volunteers at Pacific Lutheran University near Tacoma, about 40 miles to the south, simulated a second, simultaneous attack. The attack involved a car bomb as well, but the scenario also called for a terrorist to run into a campus building and take hostages.
The five-day drill, combining the Seattle disaster with a mock bioterrorist attack in Chicago, is aimed at testing the readiness of local, state and federal authorities. It is the nation's first large-scale counterterrorism exercise since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The idea, said Mayor Greg Nickels, is for regional and national agencies to see where strengths and weaknesses lie.
"When a disaster occurs, people do not call the White House," Nickels said. "They call 911."
The exercises, which are being spearheaded by the Homeland Security Department, will cost an estimated $16 million and involve more than 8,500 people from 100 federal, state and local agencies, the American Red Cross and the Canadian government.
On Monday afternoon, fire and police personnel in Seattle began arriving as spot fires were set throughout the industrial site. People trapped on a smashed bus cried for help. There even was a fake news crew.
In Washington, D.C., officials were running the entire drill from a hotel ballroom. About 80 federal workers from 26 agencies sat at long rows of tables, working phones and laptops and directing their agencies' work. Computers projected maps of Seattle and Chicago onto large screens.
Over the next few days, a number of "patients" are to show up at hospitals in the Chicago area, suffering from flu-like symptoms. In the script, a terrorist group releases a deadly plague in aerosol form.
A detailed, 200-page scenario has been written for the drill, which officials said will be as realistic-looking as possible. Stand-ins will portray President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and even press secretary Ari Fleischer.
Some details have been kept from the participants to make the exercise more realistic.
The Office of Domestic Preparedness has been planning the event - dubbed "Topoff 2" for "top officials" - since the first such drill, "Topoff 1," was conducted three years ago in Denver and New Hampshire.
Seattle's mayor said he is not worried that the security exercise may cause panic, noting that the event has received extensive publicity locally.
Hundreds of evaluators will watch the exercise and report their findings for later study.
"TOPOFF 2" - Week-Long National Combating Terrorism Exercise Begins May 12, 2003 http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/press_release_0146.shtm
Release Date: 05/05/03 00:00:00
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 5, 2003
Beginning May 12 at 3:00 p.m. EDT, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of State, in cooperation with Federal, State, local, and Canadian partners, will undertake a five-day, full-scale exercise and simulation of how the Nation would respond in the event of a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) attack.
The exercise consists of simulated attacks in the Chicago and Seattle metropolitan areas. The State of Washington, King County, and the City of Seattle respond to a hypothetical explosion containing radioactive material. The State of Illinois, Cook, Lake, DuPage and Kane Counties, and the City of Chicago respond to a covert release of a biological agent. Nineteen Federal agencies and the American Red Cross will become involved during the five-day exercise. The National Capital Region, including the District of Columbia, State of Maryland, and Commonwealth of Virginia, are participating in the first day of the exercise.
The Government of Canada, including the Province of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver, are also engaged in exercise play. Canada's participation in TOPOFF 2 is in keeping with the commitment to conduct joint exercises, as outlined in Point 30 of the Smart Border Declaration Action Plan. Approximately 18 Federal departments and agencies with counter-terrorism and consequence management roles are involved, as well as the province of British Columbia. Canadian participation is coordinated by the Department of the Solicitor General and the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness. Canada and the United States have a history of conducting joint counterterrorism exercises dating back to 1989.
The exercise consists of simulated WMD incidents; there will be no release of any actual agents. While the exercise scenario, extent of damage, and level of threat are based on a hypothetical situation and are not intended as a forecast of future terrorist-related events, they do reflect the current threat to the United States.
"Protection against terrorism requires that organizations at every level of government and in the private sector work together in partnership to prepare for events and deal with their consequences," said U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. "TOPOFF 2 provides the opportunity to test our preparedness, and at the same time identify ways to improve response in the future."
The exercise will enable top officials and response personnel to practice different courses of action, gain and maintain situational awareness, and deploy appropriate resources. Top Federal officials, State governors, county executives, mayors, city managers, along with State and local responders, will be key participants and play active roles throughout the exercise.
"TOPOFF 2 embodies the spirit of interagency and international cooperation that surfaced in the aftermath of September 11th," stated Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. "It is this cooperation that will help defeat terrorism worldwide."
"The Smart Border Declaration laid out an aggressive road map to secure and strengthen our borders. The commitment to conduct joint exercises is an important part of that agreement," said Deputy Prime Minister John Manley. "TOPOFF 2 is an excellent opportunity to collaborate with our American partners, test our response plans, and further enhance our joint response capabilities."
Over the five days of the exercise, Federal, State, local, and Canadian participants will be engaged in unclassified and classified round-the-clock exercise play.
The goals of TOPOFF 2 are to improve the nation's capacity to manage extreme events; create broader frameworks for the operation of expert crisis and consequence management systems; validate authorities, strategies, plans, policies, procedures, and protocols; and build a sustainable, systematic national exercise program to support the national strategy for homeland security.
The TOPOFF 2 exercise series is overseen by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP), which provides training, equipment, exercises, and technical assistance to the Nation's first responders, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State/Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism.
For more information visit the TOPOFF 2 online pressroom at www.topoff2media.net