The nation's largest terrorism response exercise being conducted in Las Vegas will help Nevada prepare in the event the unthinkable should occur, Gov. Kenny Guinn and other state officials said.
Officials for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. military's Northern Command and the Department of Homeland Security joined the governor Tuesday as he activated the state's Emergency Operations Center in Carson City.
The simulated terrorist attack in Las Vegas, leading to an outbreak of make-believe pneumonic plague, is the focal point of the 11-day exercise that started Monday.
The Determined Promise '03 exercise also includes other emergencies unfolding throughout Clark County to test the ability of multiple agencies to deal with simultaneous events.
"Nevada jumped at the chance to have a role in this large-scale emergency preparedness drill. This invaluable opportunity will test our state's response plans alongside local and federal agencies,"Guinn said.
The center, operated by the state Division of Emergency Management, will serve as the hub of the state's communication and coordination activities during a crisis.
"It's absolutely vital to have a coordinated effort. And what we learn from this exercise will benefit us in the future,"Guinn said.
State and Clark County officials have been working with federal representatives for 18 months to prepare for the simulated disaster. The federal government is paying for most of the $2 million exercise, which involves 2,000 participants.
The exercise is being coordinated nationally by the Department of Defense's U.S. Northern Command, formed in 2002 to deal with homeland defense and to provide military support to civil authorities during emergencies.
Homeland Security previously conducted similar drills in Chicago and Seattle.
"This is a graduation exercise for the Northern Command," said spokesman Mike Perini. "The scenarios that have been set up will test our ability to deal with a number of issues at once."
The Clark County scenario began to unfold Friday with a make-believe van crash on the Las Vegas Strip. By Sunday, officials said residents began coming down with flu-like symptoms. They said the simulated disease began to spread rapidly on Monday, quickly overwhelming local hospitals.
Confirmation that the make-believe medical crisis involved an outbreak of pneumonic plague came Tuesday, said state health officer Dr. Bradford Lee. More than 1,500 cases will have developed by Friday under the mock scenario, officials said.
As a result of the disaster, local officials requested state assistance, which in turn led to the state activating the National Guard and contacting FEMA. As part of the drill, the president will declare Clark County a disaster area.
Aircraft delivered medical supplies Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and make-believe victims were taken to nearby Logandale for treatment at a simulated field hospital. Officials said the activity will give them an idea of how long it will take to treat multiple victims of a disaster.