Friday, October 19, 2007

Drills Within Drills

Via Truth News, the massive terrorist exercise in Oregon this week (which I wrote about in my previous post), apparently turned - almost - into a real drill when drug-sniffing dogs detected explosive residue:

Portland police cordoned off several blocks around the Lloyd Center, marking off the area with thousands of feet of yellow tape blowing in the afternoon wind. They also shut down MAX trains through the area, and alerted people inside the hotel and surrounding buildings. Some in those buildings chose to evacuate, while others remained in place.

This almost looks like some kind of meta-drill. In the middle of a drill (which everyone knows is just a drill), throw in a situation that abruptly makes it look as though the real thing might actually be happening. The origin of the false alarm is, in this view, not very surprising:

Authorities initially focused on one vehicle, which turned out to be owned by a participant in the Topoff exercise. The car’s owner was quickly located and cooperated, and police later expanded the search to other vehicles on the first floor of the garage. It was windy, Schmautz said, so it’s possible the dogs picked up smells from any of several vehicles in the area.

Do something like this often enough, and eventually your emergency services - and your citizenry - are never sure if something is a drill, a false alarm, or the real thing. In any given situation, they'll either under-react (thinking, in the case of the real thing, that it's just a drill), or over-react (mistaking drills and false alarms for the real thing and throwing their all into it.) Just like confused immune-systems going into overdrive in response to pollen, the societal effects of confused emergency services can be likened to a kind of autoimmune disease.

The bomb scare might have been a false alarm, but it was not an accident.

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