In recent years, terrorism and terrorist have become the worry of the United States and because of that, more and more communities have had training programs to learn how to deal with the possibility of terrorist related actions.
Wednesday, Tucumcari took part in a special exercise to test the city’s, state’s and nation’s capability of handling just such an event in Tucumcari.
The old police department building on Center and Adams streets was the building chosen to serve as the site of a supposed secret laboratory which was being used to build weapons of mass destruction. “We want to see just how prepared everyone is for this,” said one of the judges of the activity Don Scott from Bernalillo County who travels throughout the state staging just such exercises in conjunction with the nation’s Home Land Security office. “We want to see how they react to what we’ve set up.”
In fact, the scenario set up by the individuals testing the reactions were multi-faceted. They not only tested the response to the terrorist threat in general but the reaction to tangential activities as well. There was a supposed murder, a number of booby traps for police officers, firefighters and others on the scene.
In addition, there were a number of “red herrings” to mislead personnel as to the nature of the supposed terrorist emergency. “Overall, I think we did quite well,” said Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry, “and we learned a lot, too. That’s a lot of what these exercises are about. We had a chance to identify our weaknesses and correct them. In other words we had a chance to enhance our performance.”
The entire day was set aside for the reaction to the event with the command center being located in the Baptist Church parking lot across Adams Street from the supposed WMD laboratory. A variety of individuals and groups took part in the exercise including Tucumcari Police and Firefighters, EMTs, the New Mexico State Police and even the New Mexico National Guard. Over 50 individuals took part in the exercise.
“I think this is possibly the best exercise that we have ever been involved with,” said Cherry.
Cherry said he was especially impressed with the local incident commander, Deputy Chief Larry Rigdon who was in charge of the local response to the faux terrorist plot.
“He did an excellent job,” said Cherry.