By Anthony Lanzillotti
Ohio Tests Lake Erie Dirty-Bomb Scenario
Just two weeks before the major "TOPOFF3" exercise tapped major resources in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the state of Ohio held its own much smaller tabletop exercise. The Ohio scenario, which focused on the threat posed by a sea-borne radiological dispersal device, postulated the hiding of a "dirty bomb" somewhere within a vessel at a port facility on Lake Erie. The list of participants for the daylong exercise, which took place at the Maumee Bay State Park, included the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Ohio National Guard, the Ohio State Police, and various county agencies from across the state. The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also participated in the exercise.
ODNR, which sponsored the exercise, asked the participating agencies to discuss and develop plans for addressing the threat posed by a radiological device within the multi-jurisdictional port area. The exercise yielded several valuable lessons learned and allowed the agencies involved to assign roles and responsibilities, address some difficult communications and logistics issues, and practice coordination between and among the federal, state, and local agencies participating. A full-scale drill is planned for a later date.
California Stage-Manages VBIEDs, Student Victims
California, another state actively participating in drills and exercises emphasizing responses to terrorist incidents, carried out a 24-hour exercise at an abandoned housing complex in Monterey County on Saturday, April 9, that involved more than 20 local, state, and federal agencies and over 180 first responders, including SWAT teams and hazmat response personnel. Also participating were a number of EMS (emergency medical services) students – “dressed up” for the occasion with realistic fake injuries – who were playing the roles of victims. The training scenario included drills dealing with vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), radiological materials, structural damage to buildings, and the care of multiple victims. The exercise, the county's largest ever, was funded through a homeland security grant. The scenario was made more realistic by the damaging of certain sections of buildings and the positioning of wrecked vehicles and human dummies in and around the buildings.
Related Note: California's Statewide Emergency Management Strategic Plan is available in draft form for viewing (www.oesstrategicplan.net). The California Office of Emergency Services (OES) spearheaded the drafting of the plan, working in cooperation with an advisory task force made up of a cross-section of stakeholders representing various state, local, and federal agencies and organizations. Officials said that comments on the plan are welcome.
Minnesota Sets Statewide Tornado Watch
A different type of drill will be run next week in Minnesota, which has scheduled a statewide tornado drill for Thursday, April 21. The event will actually consist of two separate drills. A tornado watch will be simulated at 0900 hours, and the first drill will be run at 1345 hours, allowing schools, businesses, and emergency-services agencies to practice sheltering. A second drill, scheduled for 1855 hours, will allow families and workers on other shifts to practice their sheltering plans as well.
The Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) agency is also offering training courses at a number of locations throughout the state. One such course, on the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP), is available on various dates in April and May. The training is free for state and local agency personnel who are eligible for such training. Travel expenses will be covered by funding from the U.S. Office of Domestic Preparedness, a DHS (Department of Homeland Security) agency. Another course being offered in both April and May is a Train-the-Trainer Awareness Level course on weapons of mass destruction. This free two-day course is designed to help participating agency members in their training of other personnel at mutually convenient times and locations.