Josef Korbel students volunteered to ‘die’ on Friday September 23rd, as part of the largest mock terror attack drill ever held in Denver. OMEGA, a non-profit dedicated to public safety issues, organized the fake terrorism attack
in the Denver metro area at nine locations around the city, including Denver International
Airport. The training exercise was labeled Operation Mountain Guardian (OMG). The
group organizes emergency response training drills and other first responder supportive
activities including the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program.
Sahar Yajani, a MA in International Human Rights student, played a football spectator who was ‘burned’ by car bombs outside the Community
College of Aurora, Lowry campus. Inside a classroom, Rob Hintz, an first year International Security student, played a hotel patron knocked ‘unconscious’ by a stampeding public. Both
volunteered as part of the drill to give emergency first responders real time experience
with a possible terrorist attack. They heard about the opportunity through the Denver Women in International Security (DWIIS) group.
“I’m interested in counter-terrorism, and I wanted to see an explosion,” said Hintz,
on why he volunteered to lay on the floor for six hours. Volunteers were required
to arrive at 6:00am. To make the drill as realistic as possible, many volunteers went
through a thorough make-up process, though the fake bruises and burn marks were more
Hollywood horror than beauty-pageant.
“I wanted to see what measures you take what it would be like to be in a situation
like that,” said Yarjani. Yarjani was “decontaminated,” meaning she was sprayed with
water after her burns and then taken to the University of Colorado Hospital. She said
she wished the decontamination had been fake and that the explosion had been real,
remembering how cold the water was.
The exercise was funded by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security. Emergency
response teams spanned 100s of departments including units from the Federal Bureau
of Investigation (FBI), Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, and Emergency Medical
Technicians (EMT). Based on the Mumbai, India attacks of 2008, it was the largest
terrorism attack drill ever held in Denver.
-Sarah Crozier, MA Candidate, International Development