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U.S. Department of Homeland Security Conducts Largest Counterterrorism Exercise to Date

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will conduct the largest and most comprehensive counterterrorism exercise to date from Oct. 15-19 in Arizona, Oregon and the U.S. territory of Guam. Top Officials 4 (TOPOFF 4) will include more than 15,000 participants from all levels of government, international partners and the private sector in a full-scale, simulated response to radiological dispersal device attacks.

Exercises like TOPOFF help test response capabilities at all levels, strengthen national preparedness and deepen international coordination,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “By responding realistically to these simulated attacks, we’re able to identify our strengths and weaknesses, build better partnerships, and gain valuable knowledge for securing the nation against terrorist attacks and other natural disasters.”

TOPOFF 4 is the fourth in a series of congressionally mandated exercises and involves various federal agencies as well as the governments of Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. It focuses on five key areas to enhance interagency coordination, planning and preparedness:

  • Prevention: To test the handling and flow of operational and time-critical intelligence between agencies to prevent a terrorist attack.
  • Intelligence/investigation: To test the handling and flow of operational and time-critical intelligence between agencies prior to, and in response to, a linked terrorist incident.
  • Incident management: To test the full range of existing procedures for domestic incident management of a terrorist weapon of mass destruction event and to improve the top officials’ capabilities to respond consistent with the National Response Plan and the National Incident Management System.
  • Public Information: To practice the strategic coordination of media relations and public information in the context of a terrorist weapon of mass destruction event or incident of national significance.
  • Evaluation: To identify lessons learned and promote best practices.

“This exercise is about strengthening working relationships within our partners in federal, state and local agencies, emergency management communities and private industry groups,” said David Paulison, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “It’s about increasing preparedness by sharing information and processes.”

TOPOFF 4 builds on experiences from previous exercises as well as real world emergencies. The exercise will prioritize increased coordination with the U.S. Department of Defense and the private sector; an expanded emphasis on prevention; a deeper focus on mass decontamination; long-term recovery and remediation issues; and strengthened partnerships and communications with international allies.

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