NJ tests threat database

More than 400 New Jersey first responders and federal authorities participated this past weekend in one of the largest terrorist emergency exercises ever held in the state.

The Nov. 15 exercise — the culmination of three years of planning — simulated an explosion in a cargo container involving radiological and chemical weapons at Port Newark, which is one of the leading destinations for international shippers on the East Coast and third largest in the country.

Responders tested the Chemical Biological Response Aide, or CoBRA, developed by Alexandria, Va.-based Defense Group Inc. (DGI). CoBRA is an electronic reference library of chemical, biological, radiological and explosives threat data, as well as government best practices and local protocols for responding to incidents. The system includes software and wireless-enabled, ruggedized laptops.

Neil Cohen, DGI marketing director, said exercise controllers and trainers would also use CoBRA as an evaluation tool. Normally, evaluators collect data during exercises on paper. But DGI digitized and automated the forms so data can be amassed and analyzed quickly and accurately during and after the exercise. It's the second exercise that the system's new evaluation application is being used, Cohen said.

More than 2,000 federal, state and local organizations use CoBRA, including FBI-accredited state and local bomb squads, first responder agencies, and several federal civilian and military agencies, Cohen said. CoBRA has been used in about a dozen simulated exercises since it was developed in the fall of 2001, he said.

Participants in the one-day, six hour exercise included the New Jersey State Police, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the state Attorney General's Office and Medical Examiner's Office, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Newark and Elizabeth police and fire departments, Union and Essex counties' prosecutor's offices, the Homeland Security Department, the FBI, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

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