Oregon, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Kentucky

by Anthony Lanzillotti

By Anthony Lanzillotti

Oregon City of Portland Selected for Terrorism Exercise in 2007

Portland, Ore., one of the fifteen cities that applied to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2004, has been chosen as one of two sites for the “TOPOFF4” exercise scheduled for 2007. The Oregon Office of Homeland Security (OOHS) is planning to use a combination of DHS grant money and corporate donations to fund preparations for the upcoming exercises that will be an essential part of TOPOFF4.

Miguel Ascarrunz, director of the Portland Office of Emergency Management (POEM), recently returned from meetings with DHS officials in Washington, D.C., related to the logistics of TOPOFF4. Ascarrunz advised that four full-time POEM officers are being assigned to preparatory duties for the 2007 exercises. Portland officials will accompany state officials on a trip to the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut Tri-State Area next month as observers in the TOPOFF3 exercises.

The diverse Portland landscape includes bridges, port facilities, various businesses, and a large convention center. This diversity will challenge the interoperability of federal, state, and local agencies during the exercises, and should provide an excellent summary of lessons learned that OOHS and other states can benefit from.

Nebraska Nebraska Medical Center Receives New Biocontainment Unit

On 7 March 2005, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman unveiled the new Biocontainment Unit at The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), was present at the unveiling and was given a full briefing and tour of the center by Heineman. The governor proclaimed Nebraska to be “a leader in bioterrorism preparedness.”

The Nebraska Health and Human Services System (NHHSS), The Nebraska Medical Center (NMC), and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) developed the new Biocontainment Unit using a combination of federal grant money and contributions from NMC and UNMC. The unit will allow medical personnel to safely treat victims of contagious and dangerous diseases, whether related to an act of terrorism or some other type of outbreak.

The NMC has pledged to assist any other state dealing with an outbreak by accepting patients who would need the specialized care provided by the Biocontainment Unit. Dr. Philip Smith, the medical director of the Biocontainment Unit, describes it as “a valuable regional, and potentially national, resource.” The unit’s staff includes fifteen nurses and fourteen respiratory technicians and therapists, all of whom are on call 24/7.

Tennessee Additions to the SensorNet Threat Detection and Tracking System

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has been using various sites in Tennessee as test beds during the past year for the ORNL SensorNet technology. SensorNet is a prototypical early warning system designed to provide real-time alerts of potential chemical, biological, or radiological threats. Numerous sensors and communication devices have been installed at various sites in Oak Ridge, Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and the Tri-Cities area.

The SensorNet mission is to detect and track a hazardous release in real time, predict its movement, and determine the possible effect on the local population. The I-40 intersection at Watts Road in Knox County, Tenn., is one of the busiest in the country, hence ORNL’s recent decision to add more sensors to the system at this location. Among the more important equipment items are new radiation detectors, thermal cameras, license-plate readers, and wind-mapping systems. Mobile SensorNet equipment has also been implemented and tested at major sporting events in Tennessee.

The success of the SensorNet program is the result of collaboration between ORNL, the University of Tennessee (UT), and various Tennessee homeland-security and law-enforcement agencies. Tennessee is bordered by eight other states, has the I-40 major thoroughfare running through it, and is home to the nation’s largest cargo airport (Memphis). These geographic and economic particulars, combined with the collaborative SensorNet effort, are establishing Tennessee as a major hub of homeland-security research, development, and training.

Kentucky Exercises, Spills, and Drills

Last month, the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security and the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management sponsored two exercises testing the state’s ability to respond to large-scale incidents. The first exercise, a live drill, took place in Paducah at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which contains nuclear fuel. The exercise was designed to test communications between the National Guard and state and local emergency responders during a radiological event. The Executive Inn in Paducah served as the command post, where a large computer screen tracked the position and movements of responders on the ground.

Members of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management Region 2 Office met at Lake Barley Lodge for “Winter Spill” on February 23. Winter Spill, a tabletop exercise sponsored by the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, was based on a Weapon of Mass Destruction attack.

The annual Statewide Tornado Drill for 2005, scheduled to begin on March 8 at 1007 hours, calls for schools, businesses, and local responders all to take part, performing the same actions they would take if it were an actual event. The Kentucky Division of Emergency Management expressed concern that some citizens might take the drill lightly, and encouraged all state residents to participate and test his or her own preparedness plans.