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Local agencies train for potential terrorist attacks


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FLAMING GORGE -- Local law enforcement agencies participated in a training exercise Wednesday that had the intensity and the look of a full-blown terrorist attack. Top priorities are to ensure public safety and protect critical water and power facilities, all in the interest of national security.

It looks like a scene from a summer blockbuster, but organizers insist it's a realistic scenario: Terrorists with about 10 hostages inside the Flaming Gorge Visitor Center.

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies respond by ground, by air and by water with divers, SWAT teams, and K-9 Units. "There's a lot of logistics going on here. We've been planning this for probably the past year, at least," said Sgt. Jeff Nigbur, spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Saftey.

In the water, divers work to defuse a device near the dam. Back at the visitor center, response teams are able rescue a victim who's been shot. Several hostages are released, but the twists and turns continue throughout the day.

"We're trying to be prepared. We're trying to exercise in case some kind of terroristic event occurred on this particular dam," Nigbur said.

"I think the exercises went very well; well planned, a lot of participation and cooperation with the agencies," said Lisa Iams, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation.

The Bureau of Reclamation, Utah Department of Public Safety, Daggett County Sheriff's Office and the FBI all came together for Wednesday's exercise. It's the first of its kind since 2003, but authorities say the eight hours of training are necessary. From tactics to coordination, response teams must be on the same page.

"I think the public should feel very secure. At least here in Utah, we practice on a regular basis these types of events," Nigbur said.

The Utah Department of Public Safety also conducts similar exercises for events like earthquakes and fires.

E-mail: wjohnson@ksl.com

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Whit Johnson

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