Friday, May 16, 2003

Real disasters take longer than 30 minutes.

The Department of Homeland Security (what a stupid name) created a drill called Topoff 2 in order to test responses to a variety of emergencies. The plan was evidently to test how emergency personnel would respond to a WMD attack. There were fictional attacks in both Seattle and Chicago. In the Chicago area there were several planned attacks and a few ‘surprises’.

For you, my loyal blog reading public (all 5 of you) I decided to do a bit of investigative reporting. I went to two locations to get the story... an ER and Midway Airport. From my observations I was not very impressed - everything was way too planned.

The first attack in Chicago was the release of plague into a crowd attending a sports event at the United Center. The actors portraying victims have been hitting local emergency rooms since Sunday. On Wednesday I drove a friend to Loyola hospital for an appointment. While I was waiting for her I wandered down to the ER to see what was happening. As far as I can tell it was all very calm – not at all how I would imagine an actual crowd of plague victims acting. As an added bonus all the plague victims were conveniently wearing yellow shirts with the words “Role Player” emblazoned on the back. I am not a medical professional or an expert in disaster preparation but I think it is likely that real world victims of bio-terrorism don’t come with identifying t-shirts.

The second planned disaster (now that is an oxymoron) was a plane crash at Midway Airport this evening. I took the opportunity to drive down to the Midway neighborhood and see what the crash would look like - after all, it is not every day that there is a planned airplane crash in the area. I was standing at a chain link fence that encircles the airport – I was far away but with my 300mm lens I had a fairly good view. The ‘crash’ was hardly fear inducing, if this is what a plane crash really looks like I will never be scared to fly again. The ‘fire’ was put out in about 10 minutes and within 30 minutes the motorcade with Tom Ridge left the airport – isn’t that how all disasters end?

I am going to choose to believe that the experts in the Department of Homeland Security (what a stupid name) know what they are doing - considering this drill cost $16 million they better. However, what this civilian saw was hardly confidence inspiring.

I took a few pictures at Midway but I have to find a place to host them before I can post them here. Hopefully I will have them up here this afternoon.


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