Drill tests measure Homeland Security effectiveness

Daniel Wiggs

Terror strikes Washburn University as Homeland Security puts Topeka’s finest through a test.

A “flash bang” portrayed a car bomb that signaled the beginning of an event orchestrated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 19 in the north circle drive outside of the Living Learning Center. The Tactical Interoperable Communication Plan is part of the federal government’s Urban Area Security Initiative put into effect to test urban area defenses against a terror attack if one were to happen.

“In an incident, the Washburn Police Department has initial command since it is on Washburn’s campus,” said Ronette Robinson, campus resource officer. “But due to the magnitude of the situation, it then becomes the command of the Topeka Police and Fire Department.”

In a situation like this, additional response units also come to aid, including the Shawnee County Sheriff, American Medical Response ambulance, area police and fire departments, as well as, specialty divisions, including the hazardous materials unit and the bomb squad.

The emergency units were being tested in their ability to communicate to other departments, in tactics and in response time, said Darrell Dibbern, risk management and safety director at Washburn.

“During the exercise there will be ‘curve balls’ thrown in to test how well they can adapt,” said Dibbern.

The curve balls ranged from a car chase to radio malfunctions to disorderly victims.

“This exercise was a success,” said Dibbern. “But it also showed us some areas where we need improvement. Homeland Security told the group that the scenario went pretty well, however, they did have some suggestions. On the city, county and state level emergency forces passed the test, said Duane Davis, a program manager with Homeland Security.

There will be an official report sent from Homeland Security to Shawnee County Emergency Management in about 30 days with comments from the evaluators.