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Just two weeks before the large "TOPOFF3" exercise tapped major resources in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the state of Ohio held a small tabletop exercise focusing on the threat of a sea borne radiological dispersal device. The scenario included a "dirty bomb" hidden within a vessel at a port facility on Lake Erie. The daylong exercise took place at the Maumee Bay State Park, and the list of participants included the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Ohio National Guard, the Ohio State Police, and various other 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 sponsored the exercise and asked the participating agencies to discuss and develop plans for addressing the threat of a radiological device at the multi-jurisdictional port area. The exercise yielded lessons learned and allowed multiple agencies to assign roles and responsibilities, address communications issues and logistics, and practice coordination between the federal, state, and local agencies. A full-scale drill is planned for a later date.
Hawaii State Civil Defense (SCD) maintains a multi-agency calendar of drills and exercises in the state. The drills and exercises of various state, county, military, and federal agencies are included in the calendar. One of the exercises scheduled for April 11 to April 14 will include multiple participants, including the Hawaii National Guard, the Kauai Civil Defense Agency, the Kauai District Health Office, local public safety departments, and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. The goal of this exercise is to prepare first responders for the event of terrorist attacks and coordinate agencies for the response to such an attack. Various scenarios are being used for this exercise, including a bioterrorism incident.
A previously unseen in the United States, a mock drive-through clinic will be activated during the biological portion of the exercise. SCD has been soliciting approximately 600 volunteers to use the clinic, simulating the receipt of treatment and medication. In exchange for their participation, volunteers will receive vouchers for local shopping establishments. According to David Lane, a bioterrorism preparedness planner with the Kauai District Health Office, the "goal is to dispense Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) medication to everyone on Kauai within 48 to 72 hours" of a bioterrorist incident.
The lessons learned from the full schedule of drills and exercises in Hawaii will assist in defining particular requirements for the Hawaii Wireless Interoperability Network (HWIN). HWIN is a statewide interagency planning initiative intended to define the wireless system interoperability and future modernization needs related to homeland security within the state.
California is another state actively participating in drills and exercises emphasizing response to terrorist incidents. On Saturday, April 9, a 24-hour drill was conducted in Monterey County, involving over 20 local, state, and federal agencies and over 180 first responders. The scenario was staged at an abandoned housing complex and included vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), radiological material, SWAT teams, structural damage, HAZMAT response, and multiple victims.
This drill, the county's largest ever, was funded through homeland security grant funding. The scenario was made realistic by damaging parts of buildings and placing wrecked vehicles and dummies in and around the buildings. Emergency medical services students played the roles of victims, with realistic fake injuries.
Related Note: California's Statewide Emergency Management Strategic Plan is available in draft form for viewing on the website www.oesstrategicplan.net. The California Office of Emergency Services (OES) spearheaded the effort to draft the plan with corroboration from the Advisory Task Force. This task force is made up of a cross-section of stakeholders representing various state, local, and federal agencies and organizations. The plan can be read on the website and comments regarding the plan are welcome.
A different type of drill will be run soon in Minnesota. A statewide tornado drill is scheduled for Thursday, April 21. The event will actually be comprised 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 to practice sheltering. A second drill is scheduled for 1855 hours, allowing families and workers on different shifts to practice their sheltering plans as well.
The Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) agency is also offering training courses at multiple locations. One such course is the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) training courses with dates in April and May, which are free for state and local agency personnel. Travel expenses will be covered by U.S. Office of Domestic Preparedness funding. Another course being offered in April and May is the Weapons of Mass Destruction Train-the-Trainer Awareness Level course. This free two-day course will enable agency members who attend to train other members at convenient times and locations.