Sacramento airport conducts terrorism drill

Law enforcement officials, including federal anti-terrorism agencies, will conduct a full-scale emergency exercise at Sacramento International Airport for three hours starting at midnight Wednesday morning.

The exercise will involve more than 200 local, state and federal agents and others who will team to deal with a simulated terrorist act in Terminal A, airport spokeswoman Laurie Slothower said.

Slothower said all regular flights are expected to be done for the day by the time the exercise begins, but if any commercial jets arrive late, they will be sent to Terminal B, which will not be used for the exercise.

Slothower said airport users on Tuesday night may see law enforcement teams and vehicles on airport grounds in the hours before the practice begins. Traffic control measures and signage will be in place before and during the exercise.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department requested Sacramento International Airport host the emergency response training event to help agencies practice for incidents similar to one that occurred at Los Angeles International Airport in November 2013.

In that incident, a gunman shot and killed a federal Transportation Security Administration officer with a semi-automatic rifle and wounded three others, including two TSA workers. The gunman was cornered and killed in a shootout with airport officers. The incident led to a mass evacuation of the airport terminals.

Agencies involved in the Sacramento airport exercise include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is providing administrative support for the event, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, the Sacramento Police Department, UC Davis Medical Center and a handful of other state and local agencies.

Participants will use weapons loaded with blanks.

“We welcome the chance to work with our partners in an emergency scenario that will be as realistic as we can safely make it,” said Sacramento Director of Airports John Wheat. “The scale of this exercise is unprecedented and reflects the airport’s commitment to safety and security.”

The exercise will conclude at 3 a.m. The terminals will be open and in normal use for early morning flights Wednesday.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak