Topoff 3 readies for WMD

First responders in New Jersey, Connecticut and foreign countries will see next week how ready they are to face terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.

Topoff 3, the third full-scale exercise in the Top Officials series run by the Homeland Security Department, will pit federal, state and local responders against simulated terrorists. Congress mandated the exercises to prevent and respond to WMD attacks.

The exercise runs from April 4-8 and is the culmination of two years of preparation. This will be the first simulation to follow the new National Response Plan and use protocols from the National Incident Management System.

Topoff 3 will be the largest and most comprehensive terrorism-response exercise ever done, according to DHS documents. More than 10,000 participants from more than 275 government and private-sector organizations will participate.

It will also be the first time a European country will be involved. Government and law-enforcement personnel in Canada and the United Kingdom will participate in concurrent exercises.

In this year’s scenario, terrorists will release biological agents in New Jersey and orchestrate a chemical attack and vehicle bombing in Connecticut. The situation is designed to evaluate how first responders handle simultaneous attacks in different locations.

Participants must strategically coordinate data and responses in real time. Procedures for incident management, intelligence transfer, media relations and public information will be tested. Results from this year’s exercise will be evaluated and the lessons learned put into practice.

Topoff 3 will cost $16 million, the same as Topoff 2, which took place in May 2003. In that scenario, terrorists unleashed a large-scale cyberattack and set off a dirty bomb in Seattle and released a pneumonic plague in Chicago. The exercise included 8,500 participants from NNN federal, state and local agencies and 21 from Canada.

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