Fake terrorists will attack the Denver metro area tomorrow in what will be the largest emergency response exercise these parts have ever seen. Called Operation Mountain Guardian -- or OMG, for short -- it will include imaginary disasters at four locations: Park Meadows Mall, Smedley Elementary School, Denver Union Station and the Community College of Aurora.
The drill is funded by federal Homeland Security dollars, though Denver District Attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough, who is helping to coordinate media coverage of the exercise, says the timing has nothing to do with the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attack. It's also likely that it has nothing to do with the underground tunnels at DIA, though some folks would beg to differ.
Here are the details: OMG (as we're calling it) starts at 5 a.m. at the Park Meadows Mall with an as-yet-unspecified terrorist attack. "The exact scenario is a very well-kept secret," Kimbrough says. "It helps keeps the drill a little more realistic."
Along those lines, she adds, "the exercise scenario does call for using pyrotechnics. There will be be loud noises and there will be emergency vehicles using their lights and sirens." Part of the exercise also calls for SWAT teams to be deployed.
Three hours after the mall attack, another mystery attack will be launched at 8 a.m. on Smedley Elementary School (which has no students; it was shuttered by Denver Public Schools years ago). Yet another will follow at 8:30 a.m. at Union Station. And at 9 a.m., the Community College of Aurora's Lowry campus will suffer the same imaginary fate.
More than 100 different agencies -- many of them area police and fire departments -- will participate in the exercise. So will more than three hundred "victims" -- volunteers culled from the ranks of local Boy Scouts, high school drama students and the Air Force. To make the drill even more realistic, Kimbrough says the "victims" will undergo moulage, a fancy French word that means they'll be adorned with fake blood and wounds.
The "victims" will be taken to Denver Health Medical Center, Sky Ridge Medical Center and University of Colorado Hospital. DIA will also participate in the drill, as will Catholic Charities. Sports Authority Field at Mile High will be used as a staging area.
"When you think about all the things that are going into this and that are part of this, it's pretty amazing," Kimbrough says. The drill should end by 4:30 p.m.
As for the media, one of its main roles is to let citizens know that OMG isn't real. Planners are expecting live coverage of the drill tomorrow morning and have already reached out to local homeowners associations and neighborhood groups. "Hopefully, a majority of groups know that it's an exercise that's unfolding," Kimbrough says.
In other words, folks should know WTF is going on so they don't scream "OMG!"
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