Responders to TopOff again

TopOff 2 After Action Summary Report

In an ongoing effort to improve the readiness of the nation's first responders, the third congressionally mandated national exercise will be held next year in Connecticut, New Jersey and the United Kingdom.

Exercises in TopOff, short for Top Officials, involve local, state and federal agencies and first responders responding to a mock terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction. TopOff events assess policies, procedures, interagency coordination and systems to find vulnerabilities.

Participants in TopOff 2, which cost $16 million and involved 8,500 people from Canada and 25 federal, state and local agencies, were introduced to the scenarios prior to the exercise as a way to build and strengthen relationships. TopOff 3 will be held in April 2005.

Seattle faced a simulated dirty bomb scenario, while Chicago was confronted with the pneumonic plague during the five-day exercise. There was also a large-scale cyberattack in Seattle, which tested several new technologies, such as video conferencing, during the exercise.

TopOff 2000, the first such exercise jointly conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Justice and State departments in May 2000, was staged in Denver, which faced a simulated chemical attack; Portsmouth, N.H., which faced a biological attack; and Washington, D.C., which faced a radiological attack. The five-day exercise was billed as a single, no-notice exercise, which means participants weren't aware of the scenarios beforehand.

Homeland Security Department officials said specific scenarios for TopOff 3 are still being developed, but several objectives include improving the national capacity to response and recover from attacks using the Interim National Response Plan and the National Incident Management System and improve international coordination among other things.

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