Local, federal agencies hold disaster drill

Training exercise is designed to help crews work together

Published: Wednesday, July 30 2008 12:05 a.m. MDT

Jesse Whitlock, Chris Richards and "victim" Josh Harvey, Rocky Mountain Raceway safety crew members, go through a mock disaster training and decontamination exercise Tuesday in West Valley City.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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WEST VALLEY CITY — More than 230 firefighters and bomb technicians, both local and federal, are participating today in an extensive drill involving weapons of mass destruction.

The training exercise is designed to help federal and local emergency response crews work together while responding to a potentially catastrophic event.

"It allows us to interact with each other and see the tools we've accumulated since 9/11," said South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote.

Foote said it's one thing to have lots of expensive specialized equipment, the important thing is knowing how to use it and knowing that everything is in operating condition.

"We're more likely to have a rollover on U-201, but we go on those all the time," said West Valley Assistant Fire Chief Kris Romijn. "This type of exercise tests everything."

Tuesday's scenario actually began Monday night at Midvale City Hall, where a deranged man invaded the City Council meeting, shot the police chief and then left two suspicious packages with himself and in his car that needed to be identified and rendered safe.

The scenario Tuesday then switched to Rocky Mountain Raceway, 6555 W. 2100 South, where firefighters and bomb technicians were called to investigate a series of on-going problems, with information from one situation leading to the next. Those scenarios included weapons of mass destruction being found.

Members of the 85th WMD Civil Support Team, part of the Utah National Guard, along with members of the Nevada CST and U.S. Army North out of Texas also participated in the event.

As part of the drill, local bomb technicians are tapped to initially examine the WMDs that are discovered. Once they determine it's out of their league, the feds will be called.

Foote said in the past, when the federal government was called in, they simply took over a situation. Now, he said there is full cooperation between agencies.

While local agencies are good at defusing chemical bombs, most are not equipped to deal with biological and radiological WMDs, which is where specialists from the U.S. Army step in, said Bill Havlic, with the U.S. Army North.

All sides agreed the drill, scheduled to end about midnight tonight, has been beneficial for everyone.

"This type of drill causes us to get every tool out of the toolbox," Romijn said.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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