Aiken County's Largest Disaster Drill

By: Kristen Cosby
By: Kristen Cosby

October 27, 2005
It was a staged disaster, but a very real possibility. The scenario went like this: a newly laid-off employee working for a Savannah River Site contractor gets upset and creates a domestic terrorist situation in Aiken Counties. News 12 is on your side to show you how emergency officials across the region would keep you safe in this kind of situation.

Last July someone sent a threatening letter and suspicious powder to the president of SRS. It happened right after a round of layoffs at the site.

Aiken County started preparing for a much worse, but similar situation even before that happened.

In their practice run, a laid off employee from an SRS contractor sets off car bombs near a tanker truck carrying low grade nuclear material.

“Certainly with our layoffs at the plant, things like that could happen,” said David Ruth, Emergency Management Coordinator.

Aiken County along with five other counties from South Carolina’s midlands practiced their response.

“The main thing that they’re working on today is a chance to work together, inner-agencies knowing how they get along,” said John Legare, State Emergency Team.

This drill is one of 22 across South Carolina using $1.3 million of Homeland Security money.

In order to keep up with the times Aiken County does four disaster drills a year, the region two. But none of them are this large. It takes a lot of money and time. The people here today must spend all day and the city, county and state employees are all paid.

“With an exercise there’s a little bit of artificiality that you have to overcome, but overall it’s been a very challenging exercise” Ruth said.

The county’s largest and most challenging exercise yet to prepare for what could happen and anything else that might.

Barnwell County was also part of this same drill involving another 250 people. As part of the same story line, the suspect from SRS ends up in Barnwell where there’s a hostage and sniper situation. The review of how today’s drill went will be out in early December.

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