It first started as a joke in late June, but the call to raid Area 51 has quickly prompted major humanitarian and safety concerns and generated a declaration of emergency across the State of Nevada. With only six weeks to plan and not one certainty in place, government officials and first responders are gearing up for what may be the biggest spectacle in recent history.
The Invasion from Facebook
“Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop Us All,” is the name of the infamous “event” that is slated to happen Sept. 20 to 22. Initially prompted by a 20-year-old in California, the storming of Area 51 is considered an anomaly at best.
Conspiracy theorists and alien hunters alike may finally have their day to get the inside scoop on what the government may be keeping inside the military installation. Despite its reputation as alien and extraterrestrial holding grounds, the site has only ever been confirmed as a flight-testing facility for the U.S. Air Force.
The event is ultimately prompting those who will make the trek to “meet up in rural Nevada” and run to “move faster than their bullets” and “see them aliens.”
As it has garnered popularity across social media, memes have been created and now an official “Storm Area 51” website is available for those looking to grab some merch. The event has 2 million marked as “going” on Facebook while 1.5 million are “interested.”
The question of will they or won’t they show up is not one taken lightly by Lincoln County Emergency Manager Eric Holt, who said that even if 1% of the 2 million confirmed as “going” make the trip, it will cause major issues for the area.
“With a possibility of four times our county population coming, our local economy and local resources can't support that type of influx of people,” said Holt.
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee, who has been a part of the Police Department for 30 years, said this is the first time he has ever been tasked with preparing for such an occasion. He also knows that the invasion comes with major implications.
“I think [the nearby City of] Rachel has roughly 70 residents and the storming has the potential to bring in 10 or 20,000 people. You can imagine the residents are concerned about their private property, people trespassing and congesting the road systems,” Lee said. “Any services they have — water, sewer, power, internet, cell phone service — we are concerned about having that amount of people in a small area.”
Preparing Fleet Operations for the Worst
Lincoln County has declared a state of emergency. Holt explained that this indicates that all local resources and funding have been exhausted for this event. So the county has had to acquire further assistance from the state.
Despite only having six weeks to plan for what may be coming, fleet preparedness is well under way, and agencies across the state are gearing up for whatever this event may bring.
“We are going to activate everything, probably about 40 first responder vehicles. We have everything from detention vehicles, like a detention bus, to vans, to cars, trucks, and SUVs,” Lee said. “We have a fleet of about everything you can think of so we will activate even the ones that we have in spares.”
Lee said that private EMS services and fire services from out of the area will also be on hand. Federal partners like the U.S. Forest Service will supplement fire services in the area if needed.
Law enforcement has continued to meet up throughout the state, and agencies as far as the City of Las Vegas are sending emergency response vehicles and crews as backup.
Holt said, “We've got mass casualty incident trailers to sheltering trailers and medical support trailers will be deployed, and then we'll have several other agencies assisting.”
Director of Emergency Management for nearby Nye County and Pahrump Fire Chief Scott Lewis added that Nye County will also be providing multi-tasking apparatuses with the capability to drive and handle anything as small as a brush fire to a motor vehicle accident. He added that all driving apparatuses equipped for EMS will also be deployed.
In terms of planning, Holt has said that this event has created a slew of obstacles and has forced his efforts to think outside the box. As there are emergency plans in place for natural disaster and the like, he explained that a completely new plan had to be created to combat what may become.
“I don't know of anywhere that has had, you know, an event like this where possibly 30,000 people may descend on a county of 5,000, in the middle of the desert, where resources are scarce,” Holt said. “Typically, an event of this size or this scale, you'd plan for six months to a year, and we've had about five to six weeks. It's come with some challenges.”
Dealing with Uncertainty
A huge factor that plays into the difficulty of planning for such an event comes from the fact that no one really knows how many people are coming and what their intent is if, and when they do.
“It's difficult for us to prepare for a gathering place when there is no gathering place truly identified, so, we are having to bolster our responsibility along entire corridors, that being the highway 95, 160, and route 6,” Lewis stated. “And by providing EMS response, fire response, law enforcement, whatever might be necessary. Those are the things that we're working on now, just to make sure that it's as safe as possible for our responders primarily, and then secondarily, to anyone who may decide to travel in and just explore.”
Whether or not people attend the event, first responders across the state will continue planning. As this joke becomes more of a reality, all three men warn that it would not be in anyone’s best interest to storm the base.
“These people need to come prepared for a rough type of camp-out setting because far as I know, hotels are booked and full. There's not a lot of amenities. They need to be prepared and understand what they're coming into if they're going to come. And then we also are encouraging them to enjoy our county lawfully and we discourage anyone from trying to storm the base,” Holt said.
Sheriff Lee also maintained that anybody who attempts to cross any boundaries on the test training site will be dealt with criminally. Those individuals will be taken into custody and transported for booking.
“We're not going to take it lightly. We want everyone to know that we're not going to put up with it,” Lee stated. “That is a government installation and we’re going to treat it that way.”