State and local emergency management officials are preparing for a large-scale terrorism training exercise that will simulate a public health emergency in southern Nevada.
"Determined Promise'03,"Aug. 18-28, is sponsored by the Department of Defense and will include a number of simulations involving areas throughout the United States.
Nevada is the only state that will hold a live simulation, Clark County Emergency Manager Jim O'Brien said Friday.
The goal of the exercise is to test the preparedness of the newly established U.S. Northern Command, a division of the Department of Defense dedicated to homeland defense that provides support to state and local agencies, O'Brien said.
The 11-day event will include mock wildfires, threats of terrorist attacks and a hurricane. Much of the exercise will be conducted electronically, on computers and radios, at the U.S. Northern Command's headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.
During the live simulation in Nevada, police, firefighters and public health officials will respond to a staged public health emergency in Indian Springs, a small town about 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas near the Nevada Test Site. Hundreds of people are expected to participate, including volunteers who will pretend to be victims seeking assistance.
The exercise will involve the simulated use of the Strategic National Stockpile _ a cache of pharmaceuticals, antidotes and medical supplies that can be rushed anywhere in the United States within 12 hours.
"It's going to test our EMS system and our medical system and our ability to coordinate assistance from the state,"O'Brien said."The whole point of the exercise is to overwhelm us. ... and demonstrate to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the U.S. Northern Command is fully operational and capable of carrying out one of its missions, that is military assistance to civil authorities."
Jerry Bussell, special adviser to Gov. Kenny Guinn on homeland security, said it's an opportunity for state and local first responders to hone their skills.
"It's going to give us a chance to respond to a significant incident at every level, from local, county and state levels to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the president of the United States,"he said.
A report will be compiled after the exercise, Bussell said.
"We'll be scrubbing down what we did right and what we did wrong,"Bussell said."We're playing it in real time to see if our procedures work. If we identify a weakness, I would correct that weakness by scheduling another exercise to bring that element up."
The county's emergency management staff will use the Clark County Government Center to run computer simulations and help coordinate the exercise. Relief agencies such as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army also might participate.
"It will be like a computer game but the decisions that are made in the exercise will be real,"Bussell said.
On the Net:
U.S. Northern Command,http://www.northcom.mil/index.cfm