ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – It’s dubbed “The Disaster Disneyland,” and it’s not a theme park you ever want to visit. But in the event of a terror attack, you’ll be glad the Marines did.
CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman got a first hand look at the facility where Marines are trained to respond to a possible terrorist attack on American soil.
Guardian Centers is an 830 acre complex in Perry, Georgia designed to look and feel like a U.S. city, complete with a four-lane highway and a “downtown” with 60 buildings.
On the day Strassman visited, 200 Marines played out a nightmare scenario: a nuclear explosion in Indianapolis.
The Marines are part of a special unit called CBIRF, which stands for Chemical Biological Incident Response Force.
“We possess unique capabilities that allow us to go into a contaminated environment, be it chemical, biological, radiological, or just simply a large conventional explosion,” said said Colonel Stephen Redifer.
Civilians were hired to pretend to be injured or dead as the troops set up triage and decontamination tents. Redifer said the actors lend an element of realism to the exercise.
“Live role players give you an aspect of free-play training that just doesn’t exist with mannequins or dummies or anything,” he said. “They’re going to respond differently. They’re going to act differently, they’re real people.”
“You have to plan and you have to train,” said Geoff Burkart. “Hope is not a plan.”
Geoff Burkart founded Guardian Centers three years ago on the site of a former missile plant. He got the idea when he saw the botched response to Hurricane Katrina. “An agency, an army will perform under great stress,” Burkart said. “They’ll perform to their lowest level of conditioned training. So the higher you can raise that bar, the better the response.”
Colonel Redifer’s says he hopes his Marines never have to face the scenario in real life, but know that hope is not a plan.
“It’s readiness, readiness, readiness,” he said. “Because we can’t predict when this is going to happen.”
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