Homeland Security exercise to be conducted in and around the Port of Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE –More than 350 emergency response and law enforcement workers from 30 agencies within Wisconsin and Illinois are expected to participate in a full scale Homeland Security exercise in the Port of Milwaukee Tuesday.

“Heartland Initiative 2009” simulates a water-borne terrorist attack using radiological materials and will give participants the opportunity to exercise public health, crisis communications, tactical response, law enforcement, hazardous material recovery, port security and other emergency management capabilities.

The exercise builds on multiple interagency training workshops, planning sessions, and functional exercises held over the past year. Phase One tested threat communications and intelligence information sharing among various agencies. Phase Two tested the implementation of a Unified Command structure and development of an Incident Action Plan.

Tuesday’s full scale exercise will be the final phase in which responders will deploy “hands-on” capabilities. Multi-agency response teams will conduct a vessel boarding, dive operations and hazardous materials response, including decontamination.

According to Sector Lake Michigan Commanding Officer, Capt. Bruce Jones, Federal Maritime Security Coordinator for Lake Michigan, “The multi-agency table-top exercise we held on March 4 in preparation for next week’s full scale exercise strengthened partnership, collaboration and risk management skills between our many law enforcement, emergency management and public health partners. The current H1N1 influenza outbreak only highlights the critical need to continue working collaboratively to ensure public safety and security.”

In a Thursday morning conference call, participating agencies committed to going ahead with the exercise despite the need to deal with the real-world flu outbreak at the same time.

“Several leaders pointed out that real crises don’t happen when it’s convenient,” Jones said, “and others noted that preparing for multiple crises simultaneously is both realistic and necessary.”

Jones also added, “On many levels, crisis response is crisis response – whether a terrorist attack, hurricane, or health emergency, the skills and capabilities required to respond are very similar.

“Exercises such as this greatly help the response community in the region prepare for large scale emergencies,” said Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee. “I appreciate the efforts of all participants. We are fortunate in Wisconsin to have experienced, dedicated professionals at all levels of government who come together quickly as a team to protect and serve the public whenever required.”

“Wisconsin’s National Guard units are experienced in dealing with real-life emergencies and yet finding ways not to break the training cycle,” said Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin and Governor Doyle’s Homeland Security Advisor. “We’re committed to being ready for any mission our civilian leaders entrust to us.”

Agencies participating in the exercise include: U.S. Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan, Coast Guard Station Milwaukee, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team, National Response Center, City of Milwaukee Office of Homeland Security, Milwaukee Police Department, Milwaukee Fire Department, Port of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Works. FBI, DOE, U.S. EPA, CBP, OSHA, 379thU.S. Army Chemical Brigade, Wisconsin Emergency Management, Wisconsin DNR, Wisconsin National Guard Civil Support Team, Wisconsin State Patrol, Milwaukee County Emergency Management, Ozaukee County Emergency Management , Racine County Emergency Management, Waukesha County Emergency Management, Washington County Emergency Management, Milwaukee County Sheriff, Waukesha County Sheriff, Racine County Sheriff and the Washington County Sheriff.

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