Images: HAZMAT Resources and Hazmat Roadshow TV
In early November, multiple agencies conducted a two-day 2023 California Weapons of Mass Destruction Summit. Cal OES, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, was the lead agency.
Four California FBI offices put on the training exercise that had two different terrorist attack events. About 250 attended, most trained to either hazmat technician or hazmat specialist level.
The first day consisted of various speakers and tabletop exercises covering how local, state and federal agencies respond to and manage these types of emergencies. This includes understanding how jurisdiction works, what agencies are activated, what experts and resources become available, and what additional local response teams and experts will be working on-site. It also looked at legal considerations including search warrants, evidence collection and chain of custody, and media and press management.
These terrorist attacks also automatically pull in the White House and other branches of the federal government.
The first event simulated a radiological dispersal device blown up at the state capitol in Sacramento. The second event was a drone attack using explosives and fentanyl. The attendees were separated into two teams each handling their incident start to finish.
The second day consisted of putting all of the pieces into practice. Participants practiced multi-agency responses to the two terrorist attacks. The Strategic Operations Center facilities were setup with a large parking lot for a staging area and two facilities to simulate the separate events — including the locations where the terrorist laboratories were setup on a ship and in a housing facility.
In addition to participants from the four FBI offices, Cal OES sent teams and two hazmat apparatus. ATF, the National Guard — Civil Support Hazmat teams, San Diego Bomb Squad as well as multiple fire and police departments sent members.
The event’s objectives were to prepare local, state and federal agencies for CBRNE and WMD emergencies, and building relationships with representatives of those agencies. Another objective was to help attendees continue preparations into the future for their area of California, and to give agencies key contacts they may need to speed up responses and pull in more resources.
Another goal was to offer hands-on practice with additional resources, multi-agency teams and new equipment. Teams were all encouraged to try new equipment the vendors brought.
Here are four of the key takeaways from the exercise.
- When an event triggers a federal response, there are a huge amount of resources available to local and state agencies.
- Classroom is a great start, hands-on is even better and realistic training is the best.
- Expand your network, take the opportunity to add key contacts to your list, get numbers on your phone, get contact out to your team.
- Have redundancies and backup plans. The best laid plan, piece of equipment, gear or knowledge can fall apart downrange. Be ready to improvise, be flexible and have alternatives.
Another training exercise is set for November 2024.
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