KTOO in Alaska published an article today entitled "Is Juneau Ready for a Cruise Ship Security Threat?
The article states that Juneau, which receives over 1,000,000 cruise passengers a year, is conducting an emergency exercise today involving a "cruise ship security threat."
The article quotes Emergency Programs Manager Tom Mattice saying that the emergency exercise involves cruise ship passengers and some type of "large-scale" security event.
Coast Guard employees, city officials, fire and rescue personnel, police officers, cruise line officials and relief organizations like the American Red Cross will be involved in the drill.
The city official calls this a "large-scale event" but that seems hardly true. A reader of our Facebook page sent us a link from the Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska requesting " . . . up to (40) enthusiastic volunteers to role play as victims/patients for sheltering, mental health and medical victims." No actual cruise ships will be involved.
Three dozen volunteers playing injured and no cruise ship in sight? That's hardly a realistic or "large scale" test.
The cruise ships sailing to Alaska today have 2,000 to 4,000 passengers aboard, in addition to crew members from 60 different countries. Many critics of the cruise industry are concerned that the local ports and emergency response officials will be overwhelmed by a true large scale cruise disaster.
A former cruise safety manager recently sent a letter to Senator Rockefeller outlining his concerns. Read "Let’s Not Wait for a Cruise Line Disaster to Protect Passengers." I have written many cautionary stories like this one - "Titanic Redux? Can Royal Caribbean Safely Evacuate 8,500 Passengers & Crew from the Oasis of the Seas?"
Many local emergency exercises like the one in Juneau today serve as little more than a public relations tool to tout that cruising is safe and everyone is prepared if something goes wrong.
Last year, the Coast Guard and the Bahamas participated in a emergency exercise where "actors"(photo above right) played injured cruise ship passengers and were attended to by the Bahamian police.
I'm sure that the forty or so actors lying around down town Juneau with fake bandages around their heads today were well taken care of by the emergency response teams which probably had more emergency personnel than the "victims."
Anyone have photos of the event? We'd be pleased to post them . . .
And here are the PR comments:
“We have one of the best teams out there for emergencies."
"We’re like family, we’ve been doing this together for so long."
“I thought it was very successful."