"Dirty Bomb" Drills Held in New York, New Hampshire

Emergency responders in New Hampshire and New York last week conducted exercises involving mock "dirty bomb" threats (see GSN, Sept. 10, 2007).

The Suffolk County, N.Y., drill involved the detonation of a radiological weapon by members of a biker gang retaliating for the arrest of their leaders.  The exercise ran from Thursday to Saturday and involved 10 hospitals and 600 personnel from 60 agencies, the Associated Press reported.  The $175,000 federally funded event was the largest of its kind on Long Island.

Police investigated the attack that killed and injured 100 people at a federal courthouse while fire, medical and other agencies handled decontamination, radiation exposure detection and emergency coordination.

"Everything came off very well," said drill organizer Richard Stockinger, deputy director of the Suffolk County Fire Academy.  "We met all of our objectives."

There were some problems with radio communications due to the different frequencies used by some agencies, he said.

Emergency agencies need additional training in some areas involving the response to radioactive materials, Stockinger said.  Additional decontamination equipment is also a necessity for many departments, he said (Associated Press/Fox 5, April 26).

Meanwhile, authorities managed to prevent a fake attack Friday in Raymond, N.N., the Manchester Union Leader reported.

The exercise involved local police officers and firefighters, state bomb squad members, and a National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team.

The exercise called for a Raymond police officer to be "overcome" by a gas inside a vacant building.  Investigators used technology inside a "mobile lab" to determine that the gas was not one of various biological or chemical agents.  The National Guard team was ultimately able to determine that the site was being used as a radioactive weapons laboratory.

Responders placed fake cesium inside a special container to end the threat.

"Your local fire and police departments do an excellent job, but in situations where they find evidence of terrorism, or a clandestine lab, we'll be there to work alongside them with specialized tools," said National Guard Maj. Eric Fessenden (see GSN, Dec. 21, 2007; Toby Henry, Union Leader, April 26).

April 28, 2008
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Emergency responders in New Hampshire and New York last week conducted exercises involving mock "dirty bomb" threats (see GSN, Sept. 10, 2007).