The National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) recently brought 108 emergency responders across seven local, county, state, regional, and federal emergency response agencies for a multi-jurisdictional All Hazards Response Training (AHRT) National Level Exercise (NLE) in the Port of Baltimore.
NSRI AHRT professionals and programs provide realistic training scenarios, facilities, and subject matter experts to increase the preparedness of responders.
NSRI at the University of Nebraska is one of 13 University Affiliated Research Centers in the nation. Established in 2012, NSRI is engaged in a long-term, strategic partnership with their Department of Defense sponsor, United States Strategic Command.
The seven participating emergency response agencies included Baltimore City Fire, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services Special Operations, Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police, Maryland Port Administration (MPA), Pennsylvania National Guard’s 3rd Civil Support Team (CST) and the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD).
The MPA hosted the location, a docking station at the Port of Baltimore’s North Locust Point Marine Terminal, providing a realistic setting for the exercise. “It was an excellent opportunity for the Port of Baltimore to team up with NSRI for this outstanding exercise,” said MPA Director of Security David Espie.
Espie continued, “Effectively responding to any incident requires sound communication and coordination with local and federal partners. Exercises like this go a long way to ensure you are prepared to meet those challenges that our world presents today and tomorrow.”
MARAD provided the training vessel, the Ready Reserve Force vessel, FFS ANTARES, a Fast Sealift Ship with the capacity to carry 800+ military vehicles including trucks, tanks and helicopters, offered a real-world, intricate facility for the scenario. Fast sealift ships are some of the fastest cargo ships in the world, capable of sailing from the US East Coast to the Persian Gulf in 18 days.
The exercises tested the emergency responders’ ability to counter weapons of mass destruction (WMD) andfacilitated a better understanding of the requirements necessary to successfully prepare for and respond to a WMD event.
In this particular scenario, unknown WMD agents were being produced by an armed, hostile threat; a mock shipmate, aboard the ANTARES. The ANTARES Ship Captain played the role of initiating an investigation, which began the exercise. As the exercise progressed, the unknown WMD agents were successfully secured, collected and identified.
Each agency played a critical part in utilizing local, state and federal resources to secure the scene and collect environmental samples for analysis and criminal prosecution. Participants exercised sampling operations with local first responders, the FBI, Laboratory Response Network and CST. Also drilled were crisis communication procedures between relevant local, state and federal partner agencies.
“The training exercise was an excellent opportunity to train with other agencies,” said CPT Arthur Prough, Operations Officer with Pennsylvania National Guard’s 3rd Civil Support Team. “If there’s an incident, you don’t want that to be your first time working together. You get to know other agency’s idiosyncrasies, so it’s good to do these exercises and work together. It’s also not every day we have access to a real ship as a training ground, unlike a mock training building. We were offered a very real-world, valuable training experience.”