(Clara Ritger) Homeland security exercise tests nuclear response in Indiana: A $13 million simulation features actors, stage blood and nuclear, biological and chemical protection suits.
Disaster response teams navigated abandoned cars and victims shouting for help as part of a nuclear training simulation at a military compound in Southern Indiana on Monday.
Clothes were strewn around. Signs hung from windows, with pleas for water. Some counted the dead.
The Homeland Security exercise is the largest in the country each year. It is held to test and evaluate the preparedness of the U.S. military to respond to a man-made disaster.
Monday’s training simulated a response to a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon. Don Manuszewski, a public affairs officer for U.S. Army North, said the response would be comparable to a nuclear blast in Indianapolis.
“In a few days, we’ll be resetting for the larger forces,” Manuszewski said. “The next ‘explosion’ is August 10, and the response will be Chicago-size.”
About 200 actors and 400 medical mannequins were scattered around the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville to simulate civilians who survived the blast. Responders wore radiation-proof suits while rescuing the role players and treating their injuries in decontamination tents.
The exercise involved 474 active-duty soldiers, reservists and members of the Indiana National Guard.
“Our goal is to save as many lives as possible,” Manuszewski said. “The more realistic the training, the better.”
This year’s event cost $13 million — $2 million less than in previous years after federal budget cuts — and had an estimated $5 million economic impact on the local area.
The center has hosted the event for the past five years, according to Sgt. Brad Staggs, a public affairs officer there. He said many first responders consider the center the most realistic for urban disaster training.
“If the realism makes a training unit pause for a moment to have to take it all in,” Staggs wrote in an email, “we’ve done our job.”
Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, attended the training.
“What we’re doing is training the world in how to deal with disasters and how to be prepared,” Donnelly said, “so that the moment these occur … that we’re ready to go.”
The center provides training in man-made and natural disasters for the U.S. military, State Department and Department of Defense.
This article first appeared @ the indy star