Table exercises and drills are all well and good, but how do you discover the unexpected problems and limitations of your response if you have it all planned out? The City of Philadelphia recently created a terror drill that required emergency response teams to respond in real time.
The Philadelphia Fire Department, city police, transit police and the FBI cooperated for a four-hour training exercise. The scenario was a simulated terrorist bomb explosion on the subway, and the responding teams were not informed in advance that the drill would be taking place.
As the name implies, “Operation Edge” was designed to keep the responders on edge. The drill began completely unannounced on a Sunday morning with emergency management actors phoning 9-1-1 to report a “bomb” exploded on a subway train, trapping it in a tunnel.
The responders, including commanders, were given information one piece at a time to best simulate a real incident unfolding. The drill designer used a technique called “stressing the exercise” to build the pressure on the responders as the scenario unfolded, introducing unpredictable events until something goes wrong.
An out-of town ambulance was parked near the command post with a “900-pound bomb” inside. It went completely unnoticed by the response teams. This and other problems such as inter-departmental communication issues and conflicting rescue procedures would have been difficult to predict in a more traditional drill setting.
Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan told the local press “It’s very easy to carefully script an exercise like this and provide that script to all the participants in advance. And we can come out here and we can go through the script and at the end of the day pat each other on the back and say what a great job we did — and have learned nothing.”
Watch the CBS News coverage here:
CNN recently reported an intelligence bulletin was issued by the Department of Homeland Security alerting State and local law enforcement officials to look out for threats targeting private utility facilities in the United States.
“While DHS has no specific, credible intelligence of an imminent threat posed to the private-sector utilities, several recent incidents highlight the ongoing threat to infrastructure in the utility sectors from insiders and outsiders seeking facility-specific information that might be exploited in an attack,” DHS spokesman Matthew Chandler said.
ABC News also reported that DHS warns of an insider threat to utilities, stating that there is a risk of violent extremists having already obtained inside positions.
Read the full articles here:
The Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, recently announced that the Department of Homeland Security will no longer use color-coded terror alerts. The new system, the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS), was created to more effectively communicate specific information about terrorist threats rather than just a generalized warning.
The original color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) was established in 2002 and had only been adjusted 16 times and had never gone below the yellow/elevated risk level. A task force was appointed by Napolitano in 2009 to review the system and make recommendations. In their report it was noted that the “Task Force membership believes the color code system has suffered from a lack of credibility and clarity leading to an erosion of public confidence such that it should be abandoned.”
According to the press release issued on January 27, 2011 by the Department of Homeland Security, “Under the new system, DHS will coordinate with other federal entities to issue formal, detailed alerts when the federal government receives information about a specific or credible terrorist threat. These alerts will include a clear statement that there is an “imminent threat” or “elevated threat.” The alerts also will provide a concise summary of the potential threat, information about actions being taken to ensure public safety, and recommended steps that individuals and communities, businesses and governments can take.”
Read the official press release here: http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/releases/pr_1296158119383.shtm