News Stories

Philpott Dam site for simulated domestic terrorist activity

Published April 29, 2009

   Philpott Dam was the site for a simulated domestic terrorist activity to test the readiness of local and regional response plans and how local, state, and federal agencies work together. 

   Wilmington District Chief of Security Greg Barr said the drill began with a simulated announcement of a threat against the dam by a fictitious domestic terrorist group in Martinsville.  The threat was a substance that could be used as an explosive.

   “The exercise was just about as realistic as you could get,” he said.  “The goal was to take each scenario and treat as if it were an actual threat.  Everybody worked well together, and the exercise was an overall success and proved to be a valuable learning tool.  We had some shortcomings, but we knew that going in.  The exercise will serve as a building block for future exercises.” 

   Barr said the exercise scenario indicated that an explosive device was delivered via an oil barrel during a normal oil product delivery.  The 34th Civil Support Team of the Virginia National Guard sent in exploratory teams that "discovered" the material.  The 34th had an analysis lab on site and was able to identify the exact components included in the compound. 

   “At the same time we were conducting the exercise at Philpott, I was sending out notifications to our other lakes and dams.  We were escalating them through the Force Protection Conditions (FPCONs).  The other projects were conducting desktop reviews of their antiterrorism (AT) matrixes and identifying items that need updating as well as material and equipment shortcomings.” 

   Wilmington District Deputy Commander LTC Christian Sulit also gave thumbs up to the execution of the exercise.  He said that the drill was the first of its kind held in the District and the South Atlantic Division, and that it highlighted interoperability. 

   “I think the exercise was very beneficial to the participants from the various county, state, and federal entities,” he said.  “Issues of resources, timing, and the establishment of a viable command and control structure were discussed between the participants.  These issues are critical in the initial stages of any response event and getting an understanding of who does what at certain points in time will benefit in the chaos of an actual event.  I think exercises such as this one would benefit any critical infrastructure location so that local, state and federal responders will know how to react to a threat scenario.”

   Sulit added infrastructure like Philpott Dam may be considered a” soft target" but that level of risk can be mitigated through cooperative actions of law enforcement and emergency response agencies at various levels through planning and exercises, and through the day-to-day vigilance of the local citizens in the area.