An “asymmetric warfare” exercise set for Friday morning will test the mettle of several county emergency agencies and private sector utility providers following a simulated explosion aboard a seagoing vessel that somehow ends up turning off Santa Barbara’s power. The explosion part of the exercise happened on Thursday in Ventura, explained Alan Jaeger with the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Asymmetric Warfare located in Pt. Mugu. Friday’s simulation in Santa Barbara continues a multi-day, Southern California-wide session, which is an annual event.
The pretend action will take place near Goleta Beach and Mission Canyon, though the public may only notice a few extra County Fire battalion trucks or Sheriff’s cruisers parked, said Robert Troy of the county’s Office of Emergency Management. Formally named the Coastal Trident 2015 Regional Maritime Security and Response Program, the plan is to put roughly two dozen participants into a situation in which the Emergency Operations Center must be activated and communicate with agencies like Public Health, Fire, and the county chief executive’s office, and also with Cox Communications and SoCalEdison while power is down and Internet and wi-fi are dead. Sending and receiving thermal images from Flamesniffer and Strongwatch, as well as Helinet surveillance systems, are in the mix of tests, as is the ability to restore power.
What sounds like a script with serious plot-twist issues has a few more surprises in store, that Jaeger declined to describe. He laughed as he signed off, saying it wouldn’t be a test if the details were published beforehand.