'CODE RED AT PRWID'
The attack was planned by Jason Llewelyn, the county's emergency services and Homeland Security director, along with officers of the Utah National Guard's 85th Civil Support Team.
It was clever and designed to force emergency responders from different agencies and areas to confront a complex crisis and deal with it as a team. The scenario called for a heavily armed band of terrorists to attack the Price River Water Improvement District Water Treatment Plant, kill the operators and any law enforcement or emergency services responders who showed up.
The terrorists would contaminate the facility and the water supply with a neurotoxin. The poison wouldn't kill everybody on the system because of dilution, so the bad guys also dumped a strong, bad-tasting chemical in the water so that even people who were not poisoned would think they were.
Llewelyn said the drill was kept under wraps for weeks. Only about a dozen people across the county were in on it. The reason for a few key people to understand in advance what was going on was because real emergencies could - and did - crop up elsewhere while the drill was going on.
It began with National Guardsmen assaulting the PRWID plant in the predawn darkness in a surprise attack. Operators were informed that they were dead, a rough way to end a graveyard shift.
The trouble call then went out from dispatch, sending Carbon County ambulance and SWAT teams to the scene.
In time, the response to the callout reached about 100 responders, Llewelyn estimated.
*SWAT teams from Carbon and Emery counties;
*Hazmat teams from Carbon and Emery, which brought two fully-rigged vans each;
*An ambulance from Carbon County. (There could have been more. Two phones calls yielded 35 ambulances theoretically from other counties ready to go.);
*The National Guard 85th Civil Support Team;
*The Civil Air Patrol;
*Carbon County communications;
*And of course dispatch was involved from the get-go.
The drill was intended to spot and critique glitches in the coordination and procedures.
At a meeting in Helper Civic Auditorium after the exercise Tuesday afternoon, leaders picked apart things that could be fixed.
Sheriff's Captain Guy Adams, the incident commander for the drill, noted that communication with hazmat teams was less that perfect. It seems that when people wearing "moon suits" talk on the radio, it tends to sound like, well, like people talking through moon suits - garbled.
Another communication issue: should three hazmat teams have three different radio frequencies or share just one?
All who offered comments during the debriefing session shared a common thread: "We learned a lot."
As Llewelyn explained it, this kind of close-knit cooperation among so many agencies would not have been possible only a decade ago. After 9-11, however, there was a concerted effort to coordinate all the agencies that would conceivably respond to a major disaster.
Llewelyn said he has become increasingly impressed by the Guard's Civil Support Team. "They are the Army's liaison with the community," he said.
"That means that when you need the help, you have all the expertise of the Army behind you."
National Guard responders at Tuesday's drill, for example, included expertise in microbiology and chemistry.
"They won't tell you how they do it, but they can analyze something and tell you what you've got," he explained.
Going a bit further, "If a nuclear warhead was to fall in Price - and not explode - you could find someone who could tell you what to do about it," he quipped.