‘Dirty bomb’ terror drill will test response coordination in Portland

Susan Harding and KATU Web Staff
Monday October 15, 2007

PORTLAND, Ore. – It’s the largest terror drill in U.S. history, and the nation will have its eyes on Portland.

This week, the city becomes ground zero as a fake dirty bomb goes off on a set resembling the Steel Bridge, covering the city in “make believe” radiation.

On Sunday, emergency crews got ready for the worst-case scenario, which is designed to test the response of local, state and federal officials to the breaking point.

Beyond a terror attack, it’s also a test for any catastrophic disaster – to prevent the fatal mistakes the nation witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

System-wide failures left thousands in jeopardy as emergency officials at all levels misjudged, miscommunicated and underestimated the storm.

In Portland, new communication plans, equipment and people will be put to the test.

“I’d rather much see if there are things we need to do to improve through this exercise than waiting till a real-life event came,” Potter said.

The mayor will be among 6,000 responders and volunteer victims working on the drill at Portland International Raceway and at local hospitals, where triage stations are ready to evaluate the wounded.

The drill scenario goes like this: terrorists who have been planning attacks in Oregon, Arizona and the U.S. Territory of Guam are able to bring radioactive material into the U.S. The first of three coordinated attacks occurs in Guam with the detonation of a dirty bomb and widespread contamination in a populous area near a power plant.
Similar attacks then occur in Portland and Phoenix.

Despite the size of the drill, don’t expect to see any real-life disruptions on the roads, highways, bridges or hospitals.

The role-playing will also include fake news photographers and reporters for a virtual news network.

And if the drill, which runs through Friday, plays out like Seattle’s mock disaster, local authorities will deal with everything from contaminated water to radioactive pets.

Also, if you notice anything unusual and wonder if it is a part of the training exercise, you can call 2-1-1.

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