Poland holds 1st big security exercise in decades

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JASCE, Poland (AP) — In imaginary emergency drills, Polish security forces evacuated the Interior Ministry and rescued foreigners supposedly injured in a cross-border helicopter crash as part of Poland's first nationwide security exercises for decades.

Responding to reports of a helicopter crash, police and firefighters rushed to rescue people playing the roles of two pilots and a passenger injured when they crashed in the woods near the village of Jasce.

The three-day exercise involves the police, military, firefighters, border guards and medical services. It's being held at a time of conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which both border Poland.

The goal is to test Poland's reaction to life-and-death scenarios and identify areas for improvement. The emergency services are being challenged with 30 fictional threats, including renegade aircraft and radiation leaks. About 3,000 people are involved.

"Naturally, for some time now Poland has been getting ready for the worst scenarios," said Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz, who ordered Poland's first large-scale, multi-service emergency drills since early 1970s. He arrived in Jasce after the simulated crash-scene rescue had finished.

He said the drills were not connected to the turmoil in neighboring Ukraine, and the security situation on Poland's border was calm.

Earlier, workers in Sienkiewicz's own government ministry building were evacuated over reports of a package containing anthrax — another fictional threat to test the emergency services' response.

The scenarios can be deliberately challenging, even bewildering. The Jasce "crash" involved a foreign helicopter crossing the border carrying explosives and illegal drugs. So not only did emergency workers have to deal with three injured, they also had to deploy sniffer dogs to find the weapons and narcotics and search for eight other passengers who fled on foot.

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