City to prepare for All-Star Game with emergency exercise at stadium

This summer’s All-Star Game is Kansas City’s chance to shine, local boosters say, but what if terrorists saw it as their opportunity to expose America’s vulnerability by making a strike in the nation’s heartland?

Or what if a tornado tore through town just as play began at a sold-out Kauffman Stadium on the evening of July 10?

Those are some of the possible scenarios that might be played out today in what city officials are describing as a “full-scale emergency exercise” at Kauffman. Some 250 to 300 invited participants are expected, including police, fire and other emergency responders, as well as the Red Cross and utility companies.

But only a few of them will know what scenarios they’ll be responding to when the drill begins today at 9. And even then, they can expect to be confronted with unexpected twists that evaluators will use to measure readiness, said Kansas City emergency manager Gene Shepherd.

“We want to test our plans, policies and procedures,” said Shepherd, who thinks this is one of the larger emergency exercises the city has seen.

Coordinated by the Office of Emergency Management and the Mid-American Regional Council, with the help of a Washington, D.C.-based consultant, the Winmill Group, the five-hour drill has been in the works for more than a year.

A table-top exercise last fall helped identify areas that needed improvement, such as communications, said city spokesman Dennis Gagnon. But even earlier, Shepherd and other city staffers were in Phoenix for last year’s All-Star Game, observing that city’s preparations.

Among the actual challenges Phoenix faced during All-Star events were a brownout during the game and a water main break downtown. The aim of today’s exercise is for Kansas City to be prepared for circumstances far more dire. A dirty bomb attack, a chemical spill or natural disaster? The city must be ready for anything, and that means involving a wide and diverse group of players, Gagnon says.

Those invited include the FBI, Secret Service, Kansas City Power and Light, the water department, Department of Homeland Security and the Missouri Department of Transportation. Several dozen folks will be at the city’s emergency center and the rest at the stadium.

The Royals will also participate, as will officials at the city’s convention facilities, where Major League Baseball will hold its Fan Fest in the days leading up to the game. But the drill won’t involve any activity outside Bartle Hall and Municipal Auditorium, Gagnon said.