Chertoff lauds anti-terror drill efforts

Thursday, April 7, 2005

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff lauded federal and state efforts in the nation's largest-ever anti-terrorism drill Wednesday, saying agencies were communicating "efficiently and promptly" in response to a pair of mock disasters.

In New Jersey, authorities aided mock victims and arrested mock terrorists after a fake bio-terror attack launched from a sport utility vehicle with a commercial sprayer. Meanwhile, Connecticut officials were dealing with a simulated chemical weapons attack on the New London waterfront.

Chertoff said authorities will conduct a thorough review of the weeklong drill to see where things had gone wrong so they can be corrected in the event of a real catastrophe.

"At this point, we have received tremendous cooperation from New Jersey, Connecticut and our federal partners," Chertoff said during a news conference. "There's no doubt we're going to learn some things from this."

Earlier, Chertoff -- accompanied by acting New Jersey Gov. Richard J. Codey and Attorney General Peter Harvey -- toured a mock antibiotic distribution center in the Rutgers University Athletic Center where "victims" of a fictitious outbreak of pneumonic plague were being screened and given empty containers representing drug treatments.

Police officers and metal barricades guarded the entrances to keep control over the crowds who would be expected to try to force their way inside during a real emergency.

As of noon Wednesday, 6,508 "deaths" had been recorded statewide as part of the fake outbreak. Planning for the drill was so detailed that "casualties" tallied by state officials included 500 cats and rabbits.

Harvey said authorities arrested five mock terrorists in a simulated raid on a Jamesburg house.

In Connecticut, authorities simulated a mustard gas attack. They confirmed nearly 200 mock deaths, more than 4,600 supposed injuries and some missing people. Three mock arrests were made based on FBI warrants.

Specialized soldiers were to be deployed Wednesday to protect a nuclear power plant complex in Waterford, Conn.

Associated Press Writer Matt Apuzzo in New London, Conn., contributed to this report.

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