LYONS — With a huge bang, police blew the front door off a rundown farmhouse where mock terrorists were hiding, causing onlookers to jump as plumes of smoke obscured the site.
About 10 SWAT team members raided the house, barging in through the open entryway and running across the roof.
The action was one of several exercises in Operation Black Tiger, a daylong standoff between about 150 local emergency workers and “terrorists” simulated on 600 acres surrounding the CEMEX plant in Lyons.
“Here’s the hostages coming out,” said county spokeswoman Patricia Demchak, narrating the action for onlookers as SWAT members led a half-dozen mock terrorists and victims out of the building.
The volunteer terrorists and hostages wore sheets of paper pinned to their shirts that indicated to paramedics what injuries they had suffered.
As part of Operation Black Tiger, emergency crews pretended they had discovered terrorists hiding in a farmhouse on the CEMEX property while a convention attended by the U.S. president was held in Longmont.
Boulder County is a relatively unlikely locale for a terrorist standoff, Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Phil West said, but local authorities should be prepared for such a situation.
“It really tests us and gets us thinking ways we’re not accustomed to,” West said. “It’s a real learning experience.”
Although emergency leaders often discuss how they would handle hypothetical situations in “tabletop” administrative exercises, those simulations can be only so effective, West said.
“It doesn’t really test the system like a day like today has,” West said.
Officials struggled a bit with patchy cell phone service, but radio communications between the 17 agencies in attendance went smoothly, West said.
A $55,981 grant from the Department of Homeland Security helped offset the cost of the exercise.
“This is a terribly costly venture with the participants, the number of people involved,” West said.
The remainder of the estimated $65,000 bill for Operation Black Tiger will be paid for by the county government.
Brad Turner can be reached at 720-494-5420, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.