EMMITSBURG, Md. — Less than a year out from the 2002 Winter Games, Olympic security personnel are getting a chance to test their public safety plans during a weeklong training course.
The exercise marks one of the last "dry-runs" before next February.
On Monday about 100 representatives, including state Olympic officer Lane Beattie, from communities and law enforcement agencies in Utah came together in this sleepy, Eastern town nestled roughly 50 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., for the weeklong training session.
"The value of this exercise is that it allows us to identify challenges and make corrections to those challenges in a safe environment where there are no consequences," Utah Olympic Public Safety Command spokesman Chris Kramer said. "We could put on the Games today if we had to. . . . It probably wouldn't be as smooth as we like, but we've got a few months to wrangle out some of the details, and that's what we're doing now."
The federal government pays for the cost of the training. During the weeklong course, Olympic security planners will have numerous scenarios thrown at them — everything from fires to bus rollovers.
"We're going to use a variety of different scenarios during the course of the week," Federal Emergency Management Agency training specialist Ray Chevalier said.
The training will simulate four days of the Olympics.
Chevalier said Utah's Olympic security planners will have to "be open for anything."
Chevalier and his small staff spent time in Utah in the months leading up to the exercise taking digital photographs and getting a feel for the Olympic venues and the surrounding area. That knowledge will then be used to re-create as realistic a disaster scenario as possible.
The training will even go as far as including mock news reports.
Digital photographs that will accompany the mock reports can also be manipulated to make them look like a structure is on fire or something has been destroyed.
"We try to make it as real as possible," Chevalier said.
For Olympic security folks, it's a chance to see how well different agencies can work together in a series of crises.
"These are important issues because the more smoothly things go, the faster we can respond," Kramer said.
The training is also a chance to improve already existing plans.
"I've never seen a community that's gone through this course and hasn't gone back and changed their plan," Chevalier said.
The institute has been training different agencies in similar exercises since 1982.
Officials from Atlanta went through the same course prior to the 1996 Summer Games, Chevalier said. The institute also trained leaders from Los Angeles and Chicago prior to Democratic Conventions in those cities. The institute has even recently taught Weber County officials in earthquake training.