Kitsap sets the stage for worst case scenario

Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management Operations Coordinator Mike Gordon shows the mock call center set up at the Kitsap Fairgrounds Pavilion this week for Diablo Bravo, a national level terrorist exercise. - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management Operations Coordinator Mike Gordon shows the mock call center set up at the Kitsap Fairgrounds Pavilion this week for Diablo Bravo, a national level terrorist exercise.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

Kitsap hosts federal terrorism exercise.

KITSAP COUNTY — Terrorists detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) alongside a Department of Energy (DOE) convoy transporting U.S. nuclear weapons on or near State Route 3 in Kitsap County around 1 p.m. July 28.

Phone calls were made and federal, state and local officials quickly descended upon Kitsap County, some in less than 24 hours.

This was the scenario laid out by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which sponsored the week-long exercise, Diablo Bravo 2008.

“Kitsap County is our gracious host for this exercise,” said DOE Spokeswoman Tracy Loughead.

Diablo Bravo is a national level exercise which tests the federal, state and local capabilities to safely mitigate a terrorist situation involving U.S. nuclear weapons in DOE’s custody.

DOE performs the exercises every few years, but because of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and start of the Iraq war, this week’s event was the first major exercise in more than 10 years. Loughead said DOE spent a couple of years planning and preparing for this week’s exercise.

Kathleen Burianek, with DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, said Diablo Bravo occurred in real time, meaning agencies across the country were notified of the incident Monday afternoon when it happened and traveled to Kitsap County as quickly as possible. Nearly 500 participants from DOE, Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management (DEM), Washington State Patrol, Washington State Department of Health and various law enforcement and fire agencies at Bremerton Motorsports Park and the Kitsap County Fairgrounds Pavilion to quickly and safely alleviate the simulated nuclear weapons accident.

Burianek was notified of the incident at 1 p.m. Monday and caught a flight from Albuquerque, N.M., to Seattle as quickly as possible. She arrived in Kitsap County around 1 a.m. Tuesday, got some rest and began work later that morning.

“We are working real operations down range to try and solve this problem,” she said.

Burianek said one of the most important aspects of an exercise like Diablo Bravo is to practice communications tactics. The various agencies worked well together throughout the week, according to Burianek.

“There’s been a lot of work within the unified command. Everyone is working well together,” she said.

“We’ve learned so much about each other and how to work together,” said Melanie Reeder, Navy Region Northwest spokeswoman.

Kitsap County DEM played a large role in the exercise and the department’s operations coordinator Mike Gordon said Diablo Bravo was a great learning experience for the county.

“This is all new to us, so we do learn things as we go along,” Gordon said.

The multi-agency coordination center for Diablo Bravo was set up at the Fairgrounds Pavilion and everyone from DOE to amateur radio operators were on hand to make the exercise as realistic as possible.

“We brought in a lot of people for the exercise to watch the event,” said Michael Flynn, operations manager for the DOE’s Office of Secure Transportation. “We’re trying to maximize the benefit of the exercise for everyone.”

Diablo Bravo enabled the various agencies to practice everything from the initial response to media and public relations should an incident involving U.S. nuclear weapons occur in the states.

“It’s all about information flow, it’s all about coordination,” Gordon said. “Communications is really what it’s all about.”

Gordon said the county DEM’s main focus is to protect Kitsap County residents and exercises like Diablo Bravo better prepare them for the worst.

“Our primary mission as Kitsap County is to protect the public — that’s our job ... to make sure our people are protected,” Gordon said.

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