The largest anti-terror drill ever undertaken in the United States is underway. U.S. authorities say the weeklong drill is designed to identify and resolve potential problems -- before a real emergency.
The drill simulates terror attacks and gauges how quickly emergency personnel can respond.
In Connecticut, federal officials staged a mock chemical weapons explosion along the waterfront of the city of New London, complete with overturned buses and volunteer victims. Officials mobilized a makeshift command post nearby.
In Hillside, New Jersey, workers simulated a biological attack. Security personnel swarmed around two sports utility vehicles and a sports car in a parking lot. The premise: officers acting on a tip discover the vehicles’ registrations don't match information on file -- and may be linked to a hospital patient suffering "flu-like symptoms.”
Homeland security officials are monitoring the exercises from a command center in Washington, DC and regional centers in New Jersey and Connecticut. Those officials are also sharpening their media skills, pretending to brief reporters covering an attack, so the public could be fully informed, if such attacks really took place.
Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff says, "The point of this is not to design a simulation that makes us, quote, 'look good,' because we were able to figure out how to pre-package everything that we wanted to do. The point is to actually drive at the areas where we think there are potential questions or criticisms to really push there in order to learn more lessons."
More than 10,000 people, including officials in Canada and the United Kingdom, are participating in the drill. Thirteen countries have sent observers to the event.