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Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Officials outline scenarios for terror training

Exercises to test preparedness at state, local levels

March 16, 2005

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— An upcoming Homeland Security Department report outlines a dozen frightening if hypothetical scenarios such as a terrorist nuclear attack or spreading plague in airport bathrooms to spur state and local preparedness against security risks.

Over the last year, the department has drafted its National Planning Scenarios plan that poses the possibility of credible and destructive attacks -- including by nerve gas, anthrax, pneumonic plague and truck bomb. The currently confidential report, requested by a presidential directive in December 2003, will be made public in upcoming months, Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Tuesday.

Homeland Security "has developed a number of scenarios that will aid federal, state and local homeland security officials in developing plans to become more prepared to prevent and respond to an act of terrorism, should it occur," Roehrkasse said.

The plan also "will help us better target our efforts and resources in improving the nation's preparedness," he said.

Officials said there was no credible indication that such attacks were being planned.

The draft plan was first reported Tuesday night on the Internet site of The New York Times.

The report does not hypothesize where such attacks would take place since, Roehrkasse said, "the overall goal is to increase the overall baseline preparedness of all states and cities throughout the country."

Besides identifying a dozen possible and plausible attacks, Roehrkasse said the report also estimates how many deaths and amount of economic damage the attacks would yield. They include, according to the Times:

l Blowing up a chlorine tank, killing 17,500 people and injuring more than 100,000.

l Spreading pneumonic plague in the bathrooms of an airport, sports arena and train station, killing 2,500 and sickening 8,000 worldwide.

l Infecting cattle with foot and mouth disease in several places, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

But a nuclear bomb, an exploding liquid chlorine tank or a widespread and prolonged aerosol anthrax spray ranked among the most devastating attacks outlined in the report, Roehrkasse said. An estimated 350,000 people could be exposed to an anthrax attack by terrorists spraying the biological weapon from a truck driving through five cities over two weeks, according to the report. An estimated 13,200 people could die.

The report also includes scenarios of natural disasters to hit major cities, including a 7.2 magnitude earthquake and a Category 5 hurricane.

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