For four hours on on Sunday, May 1, chaos reigned at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s Bus Terminal in Manhattan, the largest and busiest bus terminal in the world. Fortunately, the smoke, overturned cars, and simulated explosions were all part of a drill designed to provide a realistic exercise in unified command and emergency management of a large-scale incident by multiple response agencies.
Fifteen agencies participated in the full-scale exercise (FSE) by responding to a simulated detonation of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) at 41st Street and 8th Avenue in New York City. The realistic FSE focused on practicing interagency response protocols developed through many months of planning meetings and exercises conducted by the Port Authority with assistance from the Texas Engineering Extension Service. TEEX Training Director for Preparedness Hank Lawson and a cadre of experts from TEEX were evaluators for the FSE and provided the Port Authority with an evaluation and After-Action Report of the response and management activities.
“There were many steps leading up to the full-scale exercise, including a workshop to identify capabilities, a tabletop exercise, a jurisdictional crisis incident management & incident command post course conducted at the EOTC (Emergency Operations Training Center) in College Station, and a communications drill,” said Lawson, of TEEX’s Disaster Preparedness and Response division. “This final exercise focused on unified command decision-making and the application of vital interagency resources needed to save lives, stabilize the incident and preserve property.”
In October 2010, the Port Authority brought 49 responders from more than 20 agencies to the EOTC for a computer-simulated exercise involving a VBIED, which culminated in the full-scale exercise on-site at the Bus Terminal in Manhattan. According to Port Authority Senior Manager of Emergency Readiness Jim Munday, the building block approach the agency is using, which follows the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) model, has been successful and is being copied by other agencies.
“So far, we’ve had seven DHS-funded rotations with TEEX, and it has been a tremendous team partnership,” Munday said. The Port Authority was back at the EOTC this week for a computer-simulated exercise involving the JFK Airport.