- Town and county leaders put their heads together to see how they'd react and cooperate in a terrorist attack
Rarely can one say that a successful terrorist attack turned out to be a good thing.
The attack in Brazil Tuesday, however, was not only beneficial to Clay County but welcomed by its leaders.
Of course, the tragedy in question was simulated. That didn't stop approximately 20 community leaders (including Mayor Tom Arthur and members from the Coroner's Office, Clay County Search and Rescue, and the Clay County Health Department) from taking it seriously as they planned on what to do as it happened.
Titan Corp., acting on behalf of the state of Indiana, brought its Terrorism Consequence Management Program to Riddell National Bank's Community Room yesterday. The program, which opened channels of discussion between different response groups within the county, gave Brazil a small taste of the effects a terrorist attack could have on it.
"We're not here to tell you how to do your job," Shari Hall, the program's moderator and navigator, said. "We know you all know how to do that. We're here to see what your plans would be if there was a terrorist attack here, and see if it needs any adjustment."
All participants were then provided with several sheets of paper and a thick binder full of terrorism information and planning strategies. A slide presentation, set to music, was played, showing recent domestic and international terrorist attacks.
Unfortunately, the afternoon was not without its problems. Right before the presentation was to end, the room's lights flickered, then failed altogether for a brief time, a product of yesterday's power failures.
"I'm glad our Cinergy representatives aren't here," Clay County Emergency Management Director Gerri Husband said with a laugh.
After a brief recess, the show got back on the road. A slide in Hall's presentation said that the program was implemented "to review the rules and responsibilities of primary and responding agencies" in Clay County.
Hall then showed the group, comprised of members of the county's various response agencies and governmental offices, their scenario. In a fake newscast, members of a fictitious group known as the Red, White, and Blue Militia were arrested in Columbus, Oh. for being in possession of illegal arms and having a suspected chemical lab in their base.
The story expanded from there, up to the point where it affected Brazil directly. Another slideshow explained that Brazil's 4-H Queen Contest was attacked by a bomb.
"This is where you all come in," Hall said. "How do you handle this?"
The group started from scratch, using what information they had to resolve the fake situation. The medical and veterinary groups were mostly concerned with the well being of humans and animals, respectively, while departments like police and emergency management were busy trying to figure out how to handle information, crowds, and other public aspects of the crisis.
Among the problems discussed were lack of room at St. Vincent Clay Hospital, how a chemical fire would be handled by the fire department, how dispatchers would handle the constant flow of calls and information, and how bodies would be stored should the morgue run out of room.
It was eventually revealed that the chemical in the explosion was a dangerous blistering agent, throwing another wrench into the process. Firefighters then had to figure out how to safely put out the fire, as the medical groups were asked how to contain the large number of patients they would receive.
Every group represented in the event was involved in the process. Besides the medical and safety problems, representatives were asked how they'd deal with the press after the attack, how the dead, chemical-contaminated livestock would be handled, and how hospitals would deal with safe, but worried, residents who thought they were poisoned.
In the end, the fake crisis was resolved without a real casualty, but many representatives took information and strategies away from the meeting that could prove very beneficial in the future.
"We've had exercises in this fashion before, but never on this scale," Husband said during an intermission in the meeting. "It's beneficial to us because it opens our eyes... shows us how groups that we thought would never work together could. When we shake hands, meet each other face-to-face to see what we can all do, it really helps."