State-owned utility Santee Cooper and state and local law enforcement officials conducted a drill this week that simulated terrorists attacks at a Lowcountry dam. Although Santee Cooper’s Law Enforcement Division conducted the drill, several other responding agencies assisted.
Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Dan Moon says the mock drill near the Santee Cooper Regional Water Treatment Plant was meant to evaluate response and communication if a major incident happened at the Pinopolis dam.
“We had a scenario that had a truck, like an old Ryder rental truck that managed to bust through a gate and make its way out onto the west dyke out to the west hydro-plant over here,” says Moon.
Moon explains what the scenario contained: “The truck was found to be loaded with some kind of explosive device. The driver of the truck jumped out. The truck did not make it all the way to the actual hydro-plant itself because in the effort to burst through the fenced in area they damaged the truck and it did not run anymore. So, the driver as he was approached jumped out and runs, we set up surveillance and managed to eventually capture the driver of the truck,” says Moon.
And the outcome: “We eventually were able to bring crews in and diffuse that bomb situation. The scenario called for an evacuation of some community surrounding this are up here. We physically did not go in and evacuate the people, but the make-believe scenario was to go through and knock on doors and drive through neighborhoods announcing this mandatory evacuation,” says Moon.
Santee Cooper spokesperson Mollie Gore says the drill was an overall success for what they set out to achieve.
“The goal of the exercise was to demonstrate that Santee Cooper, our law enforcement division, communicates effectively with local, state and federal law enforcement divisions and that we have a disaster readiness plan that we can execute effectively,” says Gore.
Moon explains the reason for the drill: “Periodically they have to go through these drills to show that we are prepared. That Santee Cooper is prepared along with law enforcement personnel are prepared to get in here an diffuse or take care of whatever situation may arise. And this particular case the scenario being a truck loaded with explosives,” says Moon.
As some may wonder if the drill had anything to do with Guantanamo Bay closing and the possibility of bringing detainees to Charleston, but Moon says that had nothing to do with the drill.
“No connection whatsoever. This drill had been planned well in advance,” says Moon.
Gore says the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission monitored the tests and overall it was successful.
“The drill was a success. Obviously there’s always going to be an opportunity to learn from these exercises, that’s why we do them. But, by and large it was a very solid success,” says Gore.
The State Law Enforcement Division, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Monks Corner Police Department, SC Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina Highway Patrol, Berkeley County Emergency Management, Monks Corner Rural Fire Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also participated in the drill.