Terrorist attack drill almost a success

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A mock terrorist attack at the Iowa
State Fairgrounds would have been a success except for the hidden
nerve bomb crews missed that would have killed dozens of emergency
workers and bystanders.
"Good terrorists have two devices - one to get the crowd there
and one to take out the crowd," said Des Moines Police Chief
William Moulder, who called the oversight a "fail point" of the
exercise.
The drill included more than 20 state, local and federal
agencies. It was the area's first full-scale chemical weapons drill
under a program developed six years ago in the country's 120
largest cities.
If a terrorist armed with chemical weapons had targeted the
Varied Industries Building on Tuesday, much of what emergency crews
accomplished in the early moments would have been canceled by the
second blast, organizers said.
A fire extinguisher box was blown up prior to the exercise and
the pieces were placed inside the Varied Industries Building.
Organizers hoped someone would reassemble the pieces and look
around for a similar box.
Two of the 60 volunteer victims were told to approach a
firefighter and report that they saw someone put a box near a
public telephone.
After a volunteer relayed the suspicion, a firefighter told a
supervisor, who got word to the command post. Those posted to
monitor the box said emergency workers walked past it several times
without stopping. The second device was found shortly thereafter.
"We intentionally put it quite a distance from everything else
and that made it harder to find," said District Fire Chief Jim
Mason, who directed the drill. "That's what is so insidious about
a second device. It affects those who are there helping the
victims, so it adds to the confusion and panic that already exists.
Those who missed it "didn't get beat up about it or anything,"
Mason said. "That's the reason we do these things."
"I was hoping they would find it," he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press)