L.A. Nuclear Drill Tests Countywide HAZMAT System

Operation Golden Phoenix promotes collaboration and uses the ICBRNE program that monitors and reports critical information.

by / July 30, 2010
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Photo: Los Angeles County's Emergency Operations Center was activated for Operation Golden Phoenix. Photo by Paul Williams.

Representatives from the largest operational area in the nation's third largest state gathered Wednesday, July 28, to participate in the mock detonation of a 10-kiloton improvised nuclear device. As part of the drill dubbed Operation Golden Phoenix, Los Angeles County and its operational area -- which includes 88 cities, 137 unincorporated areas and 288 special districts -- promoted collaboration and relationship building while integrating sensor technology that supports interoperable data sharing.


Emergency operations centers in the L.A. area, including the county's and city's centers, were activated Wednesday morning to provide command and control operations in response to the detonation of the mock nuclear device in L.A.'s metropolitan area. John Fernandes, administrator of the L.A. County Office of Emergency Management, said exercises like Operation Golden Phoenix are important because they help to identify people's roles during an emergency and "expected surprises."

"There's a lot of unexpected surprises and expected surprises in a lot of ways because that's what emergencies are," he said. "Emergencies are going to give you expected surprises with respect to a certain number of casualties, a certain number of problems with reaching people who have problems getting water in the aftermath or shelter if they need immediate shelter."

To aid information sharing during real-world events -- from catastrophes to hazardous materials responses -- the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate has been working with the L.A. County operational area for about two years on a pilot of the Integrated Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (ICBRNE, pronounced "I C bernie") System, a sensor system that monitors, reports, displays and alerts officials to detection of such materials. HAZMAT instruments used by first responders in the county's operational area stream information to the Internet, where officials and subject-matter experts can view it and work together to determine the appropriate response.

"What we were trying to do was take their existing equipment and existing information systems and use open standards and communications protocols to allow them to share that data and that information seamlessly with whoever needed it and with the right amount of information so they could respond appropriately," said Science and Technology Directorate Program Manager Teresa Lustig.

Go to Emergency Management to learn more about Los Angeles County's ICBRNE System.


Elaine Pittman Former Managing Editor

Elaine Pittman worked for Government Technology from 2008 to 2017.