Crews stage fake terrorist attack at Transamerica

Firefighters, National Guard troops and emergency workers descended on the Transamerica Pyramid on Sunday to practice saving lives and untangling communication during a hypothetical terrorist attack.

About 200 people took part in the half-day simulation of a chemical agent attack on The City’s most recognizable building, officials said. Volunteers painted with faux blood and covered with soup made to look like vomit were shuttled to safety and given medical aid.

The drill was the second this year and utilized homeland security funds, San Francisco Fire Department Lt. Ken Smith said. A similar drill on Feb. 27 tested emergency preparedness at AT&T Park. Training for potential terrorist attacks is very different from training to respond to other kinds of emergencies, Smith said. Coordinated communication is essential, and practice is critical.

“We’re so used to going in and taking care of the problem. That’s our style. In this instance, we have to pull back and call in our resources,” Smith said.

The drill kicked off with a dramatic call to authorities — a silver sport utility vehicle packed with chemical weapons and explosives had blown up in the parking garage of the 853-foot office building.

Responding firefighters found multiple casualties and called in the hazardous materials team. When the team couldn’t identify the chemicals used in the attack, the California National Guard was alerted.

“It sounds complicated, but it would probably take two to three minutes to make those calls,” said Lt. Donald Nodora of the Guard’s 95th Civil Support Team.

Based in Hayward, the team assesses chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents in its mobile lab, advises local authorities and decontaminates victims. Its Unified Command Suite — a mobile unit that resembles a delivery truck — can patch into virtually any communication system in the world to coordinate with other emergency workers. The Transamerica building was chosen for Sunday’s drill based on the building management’s cooperation and the challenges of coordinating a mass rescue in a high-rise office building, Smith said.

Deputy Bill Havlic, western states commander of the Civil Support Readiness Directorate under Army North, based out of San Antonio, said the exercise wasn’t based on a specific threat against the Transamerica Pyramid. Any recognizable structure in a city becomes a natural target, however, he said.

“Destroy something that nobody cares about and nobody is going to care. Destroy the Pyramid or the Golden Gate Bridge, and you’ll get attention,” Havlic said.

The Transamerica Pyramid removed its public observation deck following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to building management.

tbarak@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

California is set to receive supplies of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is still under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Courtesy photo)
California could receive 380K doses of new J&J COVID vaccine next week

California could receive 380,300 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

A Bay Area Concrete Recycling facility that opened on PG&E property in 2019. Former PG&E employees have been accused of accepting bribes from Bay Area Concrete. (Courtesy of Bay Area Concrete Recycling via ProPublica)
Lawsuit reveals new allegations against PG&E contractor accused of fraud

By Scott Morris Bay City News Foundation Utility giant Pacific Gas &… Continue reading

New protected bicycle lanes stretch from the city's Portola District to Bernal Heights. (Courtesy Bay City News)
City leaders celebrate protected bike lanes in city’s Portola, Bernal Heights neighborhoods

San Francisco city leaders on Thursday announced the completion of new protected… Continue reading

A short walk leads to the base of Yosemite Falls, requiring no snow gear except in heavy winter conditions. (Matt Johanson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Snowy destinations abound in Yosemite winter

Those who journey to the mountains discover grand scenery, solitude .

Most Read