WMD exercise a valuable lesson

January 17, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

With singleness of mind and effort, members of the 52nd Civil Support Team of the Ohio National Guard, covered completely in hazardous materials suits, looking much like spacemen, purposefully approach the targeted area.

“At 3:30 a.m. law enforcement is responding to a request by a citizen,” Minford native Major Bill Logan, 52nd Civil Support Team, of the Ohio National Guard, out of Rickenbacker in Columbus, said. “There were shots fired, things that drive a law enforcement response. They responded and they made entry. And they assessed the inside of the structure at this specific address. And they assessed that there is a clandestine lab. So they called the (Portsmouth) Fire Department and the haz mat, and the responses just flow accordingly to where it ultimately led up to the 52nd being called out today.”

The scenario of a Thursday morning drill centered around a possible Weapon of Mass Destruction of the chemical, biological or radiological type at one of the quonset huts at the former Naval Reserve building just up the hill from Portsmouth Municipal Stadium, and how to deal with it.

“We’re doing a training exercise with the local police department and Portsmouth Fire Department, and it’s setup with the EMA (Emergency Management Agency),” Logan said. “We have the West Virginia Civil Support Team here to help us out. They’re evaluating us on our performance, along with the EMA, the fire department and local law enforcement.”

A WMD in Scioto County?

“I think sometimes we tend to think of terrorism as just international terrorism,” Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill Raison said. “What’s the likelihood that’s coming to Portsmout, Ohio? Most people think it’s not very likely. But we forget that there’s a lot of domestic terrorism. There’s organizations and things that go on within the United States that can be every bit as devastating as the international terrorism is. The Oklahoma City bombing was a domestic terrorist event. So we need to understand that those kinds of potential are here on a domestic level. And then also I think we need to remember that we’re not exempt from international terrorism. In fact, if I wanted to terrorize this country I would terrorize small town America.”

In addition to Portsmouth Fire Department fire trucks, military trucks, satellite capable trucks, tents and military equipment dotted the landscape. Men in camoflage went about their way performing their tasks, meeting with local firefighters, discussing the scenario and sharing information.

“The 52nd’s perspective is we try to get out to all the major metropolises throughout the state,” Logan said. “We are a state resource, so we’re covering all 88 counties. But we don’t want to wait until the call-out to meet people for the first time at the local level. We also have a county level haz mat team volunteers. They’re here to view and see how things are done with the 52nd and joint entries in this training exercise.”

Raison said the intelligence and information gathered by such an exercise is invaluable to his department from a relational standpoint.

“The best thing we take away from it is a working relationship with resources that we don’t have in this area,” Raison said. “So if we do have an incident in our community now, we know what resources are available to us. We’ve worked with them. We’ve had interaction with them. We understand what capabilities they can bring to us, and especially if you’re talking about something that is chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, which is what their specialty is, that’s way beyond out local jurisdiction’s capabilities. We would never have the financial resources to be prepared to deal with these kinds of things.”

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com