Dramatic nuclear attack drills staged near Manhattan as US-North Korea tensions escalate

Clark Mindock
Responders in New York and Washington are conducting tests to make sure they're ready for nuclear and terrorist attacs: AFP/Getty Images

Law enforcement officials, first responders, and agencies at all levels of government are running drills to prepare for massive nuclear and terror attacks in two of America’s most populous cities.

The training comes amid heightened national concerns over the nuclear capabilities of North Korea and following a tense 2016 presidential election season in which terrorism was a frequent point of discussion by Donald Trump.

Although the timing of the New York City drills —the nuclear attack simulation was to take place just west of the city in New Jersey — seem particularly topical, officials say that they were preplanned and have nothing to do with the headlines North Korea’s missile tests are producing. The terrorist drills will be conducted in Washington, D.C.

“This is something that has been planned well in advance of anything going on in current climate,” Lauren Lefebvre, a FEMA spokesperson, told Gothamist. “It’s just a test of our ability to communicate across federal, state, and local levels.”

A simulation of that attack on the website nucleardarkness.org, which allows users to map out the fire storm area nuclear detonations of various size would create, shows that a nuke the size of the simulated warhead would result in a firestorm that would stretch nearly across the Hudson river.

The New York exercise will include participation from federal agencies like the Department of Defence, the FBI, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. They will work with state and local entities in response to a simulated scenarios in which a 10,000 tonne improvised nuclear device goes off just east of Manhattan.

The Washington simulations were staged at six different sites in the District of Columbia and neighbourhoods in two bordering states. The respondents in the scenario were challenged with multiple different attacks in those areas by multiple teams of faux terrorists.

“Law enforcement officials practice and exercise their skills on their own regularly because that’s the best way to ensure we are always ready to respond quickly and professionally,” Scott Boggs, the managing director of homeland security and public safety for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, said in a statement announcing the tests. “On April 26, we’ll go one step further and stage a very realistic emergency event involving multiple sites and actors posing as the casualties. However, there is no reason for residents to be alarmed because the exercise will occur in a controlled environment.”

There were no plans for live actors playing victims in the New York simulation but actors were going to be used in Washington.