Simulated attack on ferry will test response Sunday
If you happen to see what looks like a speedboat ramming a state ferry and exploding in Elliott Bay on Sunday morning, don't be alarmed...
Seattle Times business reporter
If you happen to see what looks like a speedboat ramming a state ferry and exploding in Elliott Bay on Sunday morning, don't be alarmed — it's only a test.
More than a dozen federal, state and local agencies will simulate a terrorist attack on an out-of-service ferry heading to Coleman Dock from Bainbridge Island.
The training exercise, scheduled for between 8 and 11 a.m., is designed to test a newly formulated response plan for terrorist attacks on the water. It also will test the ability of many agencies to work together.
"For us to be able to play and drill so that we can respond, we have to make this as realistic as possible," said A.D. Vickery, assistant chief of the Seattle Fire Department.
The Seattle event will be the most visible of four exercises Sunday in the Puget Sound area. Tacoma will simulate an explosion inside a cargo container. Two other "table-top" scenarios will be simulated by officials but won't involve people in the field: terrorists taking over a cruise ship and releasing a biological toxin, and the discovery of a motorboat packed with explosives.
The goal is to see how the agencies respond to simultaneous disasters that tax the region's emergency resources. "We are planning here on a worst-case scenario," Vickery said.
The response plan developed in Seattle could become a template for other port cities around the nation. Port officials from New Orleans, Houston, Los Angeles and New York were among those who helped develop the plan and will be on hand Sunday to participate.
Funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the exercise is the first to coordinate so many agencies on waterfront disasters.
"There have been lots of exercises between agencies regarding terrorism," said Barb Graff, Seattle emergency-management director. "This will be the first one on the water."
The response is expected to draw on more than 400 rescuers and include the fire boat Chief Seattle, Coast Guard ships, helicopters, police and firefighters, ambulances and emergency-management personnel.
It is not expected to affect normal ferry traffic, officials said.
The test caps a two-year, $2 million effort to develop the response plan. Information about what went wrong during the test will be used to improve the plan, officials said.
Officials have sent thousands of letters and e-mails to alert residents so people won't mistake the action for a real attack. "We're not anticipating a 'War of the Worlds' scenario," said Seattle Fire Department spokesman Helen Fitzpatrick.
Alwyn Scott: 206-464-3329 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.