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Robinson says drill went AOK

Jennifer Smith

"Are we doing enough to protect our freedoms that we've shed a lot of blood for?" wondered Eugene Darrow, a World War II veteran and visitor to Sen. Linda Newell's town hall Saturday at Blueberry's. "... We have active enemies."

Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson answered that in part by briefing attendees on the results of Operation Mountain Guardian, a large-scale disaster simulation that took place around the metro area in September.

Robinson is chair of the North Central All Hazards Emergency Management Region board, which comprises Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin and Jefferson counties. That office coordinated the operation, known as OMG, using a grant from the Homeland Security Office.

Robinson said the "attacks" on places like Park Meadows Mall and Denver International Airport were designed to emulate terrorist attacks that have occurred over the years in Mumbai, India. A particular area of focus was on the effectiveness of communication systems.

"We were rightfully criticized  after Columbine," he said, when first responders from different agencies weren't on compatible systems. "If we can't communicate, we can't fight. ... That issue has been resolved."

He said they purposely tried to crash the system during Operation Mountain Guardian, but it wouldn't go down.

"We've done that with your tax dollars to serve your public-safety needs," he said.

Robinson said cooperation among different entities contributed to the success of the operation.

"Regionalization is the most effective way to conduct your business," he said. For example, if every agency in the metro area buys a bomb-sniffing dog, then you end up with a bunch of bomb-sniffing dogs that never get to work. But if one department buys a bomb-sniffing dog and another buys a drug-sniffing dog, they can share, and the dogs get more time in the field.

Partnerships are important to homeland security generally, he said, encouraging people to get involved in neighborhood watch groups, homeowners' associations and community-policing efforts.

"Problem solving and partnerships are what good public safety is all about," he said.

Mickey Kempf offered details on one such opportunity, the Citizens Emergency Response Team. It prepares ordinary people to help during a disaster, then subjects them to a drill like OMG but on a smaller scale.

"How can you augment the police department, the fire department that can't get there? ... How can you help your neighbor, how can you help your friends, how can you help the guy who's sitting on the floor and all of a sudden he's dying?" Kempf said CERT answers those questions.

Another such program is the Community Awareness Program, which trains any group that asks how to recognize suspicious behavior.

"It's not physical profiling or ethnic profiling," said Bill Tolbert. "It's about behavior profiling. ... It's so that nobody in your neighborhood can say, 'I didn't see it coming.'"

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Points to Ponder

Are you involved in any community-policing efforts?

Do you feel safe from terrorism in Littleton?