Saturday, August 10, 2002

Fake attack tests local rescuers

By Howard Wilkinson,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        By pretending the unthinkable has happened, firefighters, police and emergency medical squads in Hamilton County should find out Monday if they are ready to respond to a chemical, biological or nuclear terrorist attack.

        At Paul Brown Stadium and locations in Colerain Township and the Madeira-Indian Hill area, nearly 400 firefighters, police, soldiers, emergency workers and make-believe “victims” will play out a day-long terrorist-attack scenario devised by the U.S. Army for local officials.

        “We have to test our first response should the worst happen,” said Cincinnati District Fire Chief Ed Dadosky.

        The field exercise will include teams dealing with simultaneous events in the three staging areas. At the stadium, the fictional scenario will be that terrorists have attacked at a charity football game.

        Somewhere between 100 to 150 volunteer “victims” will show up at the stadium an hour before the 7 a.m. start time to be made up as injured or ill football fans, Mr. Dadosky said.

        Cincinnati residents will see and hear the police, fire and EMS responders as they make their way to the sites. They also might see Ohio and Kentucky National Guard troops who will also take part in the exercise.

        As visible as the exercise will be, organizers want to warn the public that it is only a drill. Mr. Dadosky said the Artimis traffic control boards on the interstate highways will be used to flash messages to commuters about the exercise Monday morning, as will the external advertising boards at Paul Brown Stadium.

        “But there's always somebody who doesn't get the message,” Mr. Dadosky said. “Somebody will think it's real.”

        The two National Guard units participating are both trained in “weapons of mass destruction” attacks. They are the Ohio National Guard's 52nd Civil Support Team, based in Columbus, and the Kentucky National Guard's 41st Civil Support Team from Louisville.

        Mr. Dadosky said the idea for the field exercise — and the “table-top exercise” that follows on Tuesday — came about because the Cincinnati Fire Department received new chemical and biological response equipment last fall.

        “We didn't really know how to use it,” he said. “So we called in the Guard to help us, because they are the best in the business at this sort of thing.”

        The Guard units and the fire departments of Cincinnati, Colerain Township and Madeira-Indian Hill began planning the exercise in February. Nearly 20 agencies will be involved, including the Cincinnati police, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department, the Greater Cincinnati Hazardous Materials Unit, the American Red Cross, city and county health departments, the FBI, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

        The city of Cincinnati's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be up and running through the exercise, but the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency will not have its EOC in operation.

        “This is a field test for fire, police and EMS people,” said Don Maccarone, director of the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency. “We'd be involved if this were an exercise involving a full-blown response. What is happening Monday is one step towards a large-scale effort.”

        Monday's exercise, Mr. Dadosky said, will focus on how the people who are likely to get to the scene of a chemical or biological attack — police, firefighters, hazardous material squads — would respond in a real-life situation.

        Mr. Dadosky said the volunteer “victims” will undergo simulated triage care at Paul Brown Stadium. They may be asked to don bathing suits so firefighters can simulate decontamination by hosing them down.

        Volunteers were asked to “wear old clothes that might get permanently stained or cut,” a volunteer recruitment advertisement said.

        The idea for victims and responders, Mr. Dadosky said, “is to make it as realistic as possible.”


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