FEMA Takes Over Town In Prep For The Unthinkable
A once-abandoned town in the middle of the New Mexico desert now is victim to "more bombings than Jerusalem ... more terrorist attacks that Baghdad," the Associated Press reports.
A video report profiles Playas, NM, a full-scale training ground for Federal Emergency Management Agency classes that give law enforcement agencies experience dealing with all manners of disasters.
"Just a few years ago it was a ghost town abandoned after a large mining company pulled out," the AP's Rich Matthews reports. "Today, it's a training ground for the unthinkable: Nuclear attacks, invasions and suicide bombings in the United States."
At one point about a thousand people lived in Playas, most of whom worked at a nearby copper plant owned by the Phelps Dodge company. Now only 25 families call Playas home, after the company shut down the copper plant in 1999. Of those, five aren't even related to the FEMA training operations, Matthews reports.
The Center for Land Use Interpretation says the demand for terror training has helped the town.
In 2004 New Mexico Tech (NMT) purchased Playas outright from Phelps-Dodge, using a $5 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to begin converting the town into the nation’s primary counter-terrorism training facility. Training will include first responder and hostage negotiation, urban warfare and WMD exercises (including simulated nuclear, chemical and biological attacks) as well as terrorism related border security programs. Citizens of Playas and surrounding areas, indeed much of New Mexico, are thrilled at this much needed inflow of cash and jobs. The nation’s burden of war and debt has a direct, positive effect on this corner of the union.
Life for these families isn't quite normal, but they tell the AP they're adjusting OK.
"We have helicopters in the middle of the night flying overhead and explosions that can take place at all hours," resident Kim Kvame says. "It gets to be a part of the background noise that just lets you know you're home after a while."
This video is from The Associated Press, broadcast March 26, 2008.