Public Safety

Region Practices Disaster Reponse in Large-Scale Drill

As part of a statewide disaster simulation Wednesday, firefighters and County hazardous materials personnel highlighted their capacity to respond to numerous victims using two specialized vehicles that turned Qualcomm Stadium’s parking lot into a triage, treatment and decontamination hub.

The drill came as part of the 2012 Golden Guardian Exercise, the biggest and most detailed drill of its kind in California and San Diego County this year. The annual statewide exercise tests the emergency preparation, response and recovery of government, private sector and volunteer organizations. This year’s scenario supposed a catastrophic earthquake that devastated Southern California.
County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Roberts observed the demonstration of the Mass Casualty Trailer and Mass Decontamination Vehicle at the stadium.

“Golden Guardian gives the County and other agencies a detailed level of practice that ensures we are ready to respond to natural or manmade disasters,” Roberts said. “If we saw a massive number of casualties or people exposed to some kind of chemical spill or other contaminant during a disaster, these Mass Casualty and Mass Decontamination vehicles could be critical.”

Housed at fire departments in all parts of the County, the vehicles are designed to serve a large number of victims in one area when it may be impossible or unsafe to move them to other locations. The region has three vehicles designed to decontaminate up to 150 people an hour and six Mass Casualty vehicles designed to treat up to 50 people each.  

Locally, the County Office of Emergency Services is coordinating the three-day Golden Guardian Exercise, which started Tuesday and continues tomorrow. Participants include County departments, 14 cities, fire districts, power and water utilities, hospitals, UC San Diego and the American Red Cross.

On Tuesday, the exercise tested the region’s response to a 7.8 magnitude earthquake along the San Andreas Fault. With regional coordination overseen from County’s Emergency Operations Center in Kearny Mesa, players responded to numerous requests for mutual aid from outside the region, prepared for thousands of evacuees heading into San Diego and confronted a large-scale blackout here.

On Wednesday, players in the Emergency Operations Center practiced responding to two strong aftershocks in San Diego County, with property damage, multiple structure fires, evacuations and traffic jams part of the scenario.  UC San Diego staff and a County Shelter Team also set up an evacuation site and shelter at the campus’s RIMAC Arena.   

On Thursday, participants will plan the immediate and future actions for a regional recovery from a strong earthquake.  
The Golden Guardian Exercise and the Mass Casualty and Decontamination Vehicles are funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Federal Homeland Security grants enhance the ability of state, local and tribal governments to prepare, prevent, and respond to disasters.

In a real disaster, well-being and survival depends on individual preparedness too. The Office of Emergency Services reminds residents to make sure they have a family disaster plan and emergency kit. For help preparing, visit the ReadySanDiego section of