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Friday, March 1, 2024

Cops, Responders Play Ball with Dodgers in Major DHS Terror Exercise

A major training exercise staged by the Department of Homeland Security and the L.A. Dodgers on Friday will test the response of Los Angeles’ emergency services to a mass casualty terror attack at the team’s iconic ball park, Dodger Stadium.

The joint effort brings first responders together with Dodgers security personnel and executives “to test tactical response and coordination to a … complex, coordinated attack” during a big game at Dodger Stadium, according to a statement given to Homeland Security Today by a spokesman for the team.

Over 700 participants and observers will take part in the exercise over the course of several hours, the statement said. No details of the scenarios to be rehearsed were available, but past exercises have simulated responses to active-shooter and poison gas attacks.

Brian Harrell, assistant director for infrastructure security in DHS’ new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said in an emailed statement that “CISA routinely partners with industry and government to plan and practice for a wide range of possible scenarios.”

CISA maintains relationships with businesses and first responder agencies across the country through its network of local protective security advisors, he said — partnering to plan responses to a wide range of manmade and natural disaster situations.

“A full-scale exercise like this one represents an investment of time and energy by all participants, but just like a team has to practice together for game day, the best way to ensure we are ready for anything, routine or otherwise, is to practice the plans we have put in place — together,” added Harrell.

Emergency responders and disaster management officials often emphasize the importance of regular training drills, and of ongoing partnerships involving personal relationships — an attitude summed up in the nostrum that “You don’t want to be exchanging business cards in the middle of an incident.”

Multi-agency participation

“This particular exercise is an advancement of the partnership we maintain with the Dodgers,” said Harrell, noting that DHS’ relationship with the team goes back more than a decade.

Friday’s drill “builds upon over a year of related activities including workshops, tabletop exercises, and other preparatory efforts to review emergency action plans and procedures to relating to stadium security,” he said.

Sports stadiums, like shopping malls and the venues for large public outdoor events, are part of the nation’s critical infrastructure under a 2013 executive order known as Presidential Decision Directive 21, which defined 16 industrial and commercial sectors of vital importance to the life of the nation.

The significance of such soft targets for mass casualty terrorism has been clear since at least December 1999, when the arrest of Ahmed Ressam foiled an early al-Qaeda bomb plot and led to the cancellation of Seattle’s millennium New Year’s celebration at the Space Needle.

“We value the Dodgers’ partnership, and commend them for serving as an industry leader in stadium security,” said Harrell.

Other participants in Friday’s exercise include the L.A. Police Department along with personnel from the L.A. Fire Department and the city’s Emergency Management Department, according to LAPD Sgt. Orlando Nieves.

Several dozen officers from LAPD, including specialists from SWAT teams and Major Crimes, will take part, Nieves said. “These exercises are designed to allow first responder agencies to rehearse our response to various different kinds of incidents,” he said.

Testing emergency response

The exercise will test out a number of emergency response procedures, including:

  • Integrating private-sector organizations into the incident command structure;
  • Managing crowds and VIPs, including individuals who may need to get in and out of the stadium;
  • Evacuation and shelter-in-place decisions;
  • Integrating public-sector emergency medical teams with on-site medical providers;
  • Integrating on-site, off-duty uniformed law enforcement with responding, on-duty law enforcement;
  • Public messaging before and after an incident.

“We take the security of our fans, staff and players very seriously,” said Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten. “This is why we feel it’s important to work with our partners at CISA and in the community around the stadium to invest the time and resources into planning and testing our security and emergency procedures.”

“In the unlikely event that something were to happen at Dodger Stadium, having gone through this exercise puts us in a better position to respond as a unified team,” Kasten concluded.

Shaun Waterman
Shaun Waterman
Shaun is an award-winning journalist who has worked for the BBC and United Press International. In the past five years, Shaun has launched two of the best-respected and most widely read DC daily cybersecurity newsletters — POLITICO Pro's Morning Cybersecurity and Scoop News Group's CyberScoop. Shaun became UPI's Homeland and National Security Editor shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, covering the Department of Homeland Security from its standup in 2003. His reporting on DHS and counter-terrorism policy earned him two (2005, 2011) "Dateline Washington" awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, and a senior fellowship at the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. In 2009-10 Shaun produced a major report on cybersecurity for critical infrastructure at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a leading Washington think tank. From 2010-2013, he wrote about intelligence, foreign affairs and cybersecurity as a staff reporter for The Washington Times. Shaun, who is British, has a master’s degree in social and political sciences from King’s College, Cambridge. He is married and lives in Washington, DC with his wife and three American sons, Miles, Harry and Peter.

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