Campus: CSU Los Angeles -- January 16, 2004

CSULA Students To Participate In Emergency Operations Simulation

Mock Terrorist Attack Tests Emergency Services and Student Journalists

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's department, in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Emergency Operations Center, will be conducting a test of the county's emergency preparedness with a mock terrorist attack on Thursday, January 29. As part of that preparedness drill, county workers will encounter an aggressive "press corps" made of student journalists from nearby Cal State L.A. CSULA students will play the parts of television reporters and producers covering the story, and are intended to give the emergency services personnel a sense of what it is like to face the media, while doing their job running the county under emergency circumstances.

"The role these young student journalists play can not be underestimated," said Deputy Harry Drucker, public information officer and media coordinator for the simulation. "Not only do our emergency services personnel get to feel what it is like to be answerable to the press, these young journalists get the opportunity to cover a major, breaking story that could affect all of Southern California."

The disaster simulation begins at dawn, with a press report that terrorists have attacked three locations around the Los Angeles basin: the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Santa Anita Race Track, and a major amusement park. As the disaster workers arrive at the East Los Angeles Emergency Operations Center, they will encounter reporters and camera crews who will pepper them with questions and attempt to get exclusive interviews. The "press coverage" will continue throughout the day, with frequent updates to the "corps" from inside the Operations Center from agency spokespersons and government officials.

With such a large county, both in terms of population and area, these disaster simulations give emergency services personnel the experience to handle even big catastrophes with efficiency and skill. It has been determined by virtually all agencies involved that public notification and breaking news from inside the operations center serves all segments of the community. Not only does important information with regard to evacuation, medical care and other vital services get out to the public, many people will be reassured that local governmental agencies have the matter under control. The skills learned handling these large-scale events should make response to an actual disaster more efficient, more effective and better organized.

The simulation was originally planned for last fall, but the massive Southern California fires caused the activation of the Emergency Operations Center under real conditions, and thus no simulation was possible. Cal State L.A. Communication Studies students will participate as part of an undergraduate directed study class and will receive credit for their participation.

Contact: Carol Selkin, Media Relations Director, (323) 343-3044; Jon Beaupre, Communication Studies, (323) 343-4211

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