Las Vegas Terror Drill
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Las Vegas Terror Drill

KLAS-TV | July 13, 2005
By Edward Lawrence

The 54-hour exercise that started Monday morning will test different parts of the entire emergency response system from first responders to the hospital trauma units. Seventy-eight local, state, and federal agencies are watching to see how well the valley's plans adapt to the problems thrown at them.

A room in the Clark County Government Center is used to disseminate disaster information. It was been activated Monday as part of the drill.

The Clark County Emergency Command Center opened with reports of mock explosions. It's the nerve center for first responders. Like the brain of a giant octopus, officials there coordinate every response from fire crews to transporting patients to the trauma centers.

Playing the roll of reporters, volunteers bombard police, fire, and the hospitals with phone calls as the emergency plan unfolds.

Carolyn Levering, Clark County Emergency Management Operations Manager, says, "Very little of this exercise has been scripted. A lot of it has been dependent on player action and the resources that are available as we request them."

Levering developed the drill. "We are looking to see if agencies are relying on their plans that they have published -- whether they are following those plans." Levering says no one in the field has specific details on what will happen when.

Jane Shunney, from Public Health Preparedness, says a blind exercise like this one is necessary to truly see if emergency crews can save lives. "We just know from what happened recently in London that we need to be prepared. All of this is about preparedness."

Monday's test started at 6 a.m. and will run for 54 hours, which means all shifts of emergency workers -- including the hospitals -- will be tested.

Levering adds, "A lot of people who normally are not the primary responders. Second or third string you might say are getting a lot of practice this week."

The county has never tested the graveyard shifts in the emergency rooms or trauma centers. Levering says, "This is a big step for the hospitals to be taking. We are very interested to see how that works out.

Levering says this massive learning experience will make the valley more prepared should something happen.

Just in the first day, a timing issue popped up. Emergency management officials are finding they are about one hour behind the expected disaster set up time.

It's taking longer than expected to get equipment to locations and to brief emergency crews on how to treat patients. At the end of this drill, the response plans will be updated.

On Thursday and Friday, representatives from the various agencies tested -- as well as federal officers -- will examine what happened. Based on that report some emergency response plans will change.

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911:  The Road to Tyranny