Labeled "TOPOFF 4", short for “Top Officials 4", this terror drill "involves 22,000 participants in Arizona, Oregon and Guam practicing responses to various emergencies", including dirty bombs. The participants "from all levels of government, nationally and internationally, as well as the private sector in a full-scale simulated response to radiological dispersal device, or "dirty bomb."
Like any other test or drill, the idea is to see where we are prepared and where we need to make changes and improvements. The drill includes testing first responders; traffic flow/congestion; airports and other mass transit facililties; media response; evacuation plans; and everything that a terrorist attack such as a dirty bomb might affect. Results of these drills can be applied to natural disasters, but: "The difference between natural disasters and man-made disasters is that terrorists can be a lot more calculating," Michael J. Widomski, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
So what did we learn:
Congress learns from a mock response to a so-called "dirty bomb" that there are too few labs to perform the necessary tests to determine exposure if an American city is contaminated. Rep. Brad Miller, a Democrat from North Carolina, discusses the matter with Steve Inskeep. (NPR)
More on Topoff from FBI and Homeland Security:
... it involves the highest levels of government and is the fourth event of its kind. It’s the largest terrorism exercise in the United States, meant to test the nation’s collective mettle in responding to a terrorist attack.
The fabricated scenario. Terrorists snuck radioactive materials into the U.S. … then launched three nearly simultaneous strikes using “dirty bombs”—first in Guam near a power plant, then in Portland, Oregon, and in Phoenix, Arizona. Unlike conventional nukes, the bombs—called radiological dispersal devices—release radioactive materials into the surrounding areas, wreaking all kinds of health and rescue havoc.
Our role. As the lead U.S. agency for terrorism investigations, it was our job to run the overall law enforcement piece, including the investigation in each venue. Along the way, we brought to bear our suite of capabilities—evidence recovery experts, SWAT teams, HAZMAT specialists, intelligence analysts, crisis managers, IT specialists, surveillance experts, bomb technicians, WMD specialists, forensic scientists, victim-witness professionals, and media coordinators.
For us, the lessons learned and experiences gained are invaluable: (more at Student Operated Press and
Now that the dust has settled from last week's TOPOFF-4 homeland security exercise, chairman of the Legislative Committee on Homeland Security and former Guam homeland security advisor senator Frank Blas, Jr. plans to get some answers as to how much the Government of Guam paid to play. He'll also be seeking answers from the feds on whether it held up its bargain in terms of the memorandum of agreement signed only days before the exercise began.
"I will be inquiring for those costs from both sides as well," confirmed the freshman policymaker, "and I want to see if there was equality and parity in this thing."
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