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Terrorism drill shakes out response problems

This month's drill testing more than 40 Washington County police and fire agencies' response to possible terrorism attacks ran into communication problems and coordination issues.

'There's clearly a problem with who is responsible for what and who should be communicating to whom,' said Scott Porter, director of the county's Office of Consolidated Emergency Management.

Also, Porter said, 'there's not enough sharing of intelligence.'

June 14's elaborate test of county resources and skill featured emergency personnel from Washington and Columbia counties who responded to a series of staged attacks by a fictional domestic terrorism group KAOS - which organizers said stood for 'The Knights of Anarchy Opposed to Society.'

The name was a play on the 1960s television series 'Get Smart.'

Beginning at 9 a.m., responders in the drill received reports of an explosion of the Trask Dam at the Barney Reservoir, which caused flooding in parts of Tillamook County.

There also were reports of an explosion on a TriMet bus in Tualatin, a hostage situation on a TriMet light-rail train near Beaverton and a shooting in a Hillsboro retirement home.

The test involved a fake bomb manufacturing facility in Forest Grove, and a fake contamination of Tigard's water supply.

Jeff Rubin, the emergency manager for the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue District, said he was not too concerned about the communication problems that arose because the exercise was designed to stress the system.

'We want those to happen in exercises so it doesn't happen in real life,' Rubin said. 'That's why we do exercises.'

This was the first time all the responders had been tested in a hands-on way.

'Over the last few years the nation has been confronted with terrorism and a lot of focus has been on being better prepared,' Porter said, adding that it was only within the past two years that Washington County responders focused on forming a terrorism attack response.

He said it was far more likely that county emergency personnel would have to respond to a natural hazard.

The exercise, dubbed 'TipOff' by its planners, is the precursor to a 2007 exercise in the Portland area that will involve federal officials in Washington, D.C.

It cost about $130,000 and was funded by the federal Department of Homeland Security and the state's Homeland Security Grant Program.

A report on how the county did is expected at the end of July, Porter said.