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Nov. 30, 2006

87 Officials Take Part in Port City Security Exercise

News from the Local Emergency Planning Committee -

Hazardous chemicals are commonplace today, from the chlorine that is used in municipal water systems to chemicals that feed the manufacturing processes in Oswego County's industries. One of the functions of the Oswego County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) is to help agencies and companies across Oswego County plan for how to respond to incidents involving the accidental or intentional release of dangerous chemicals.

Eighty-seven officials from the Department of Homeland Security on down to the Oswego County Emergency Management Office and the Port of Oswego Authority gathered at SUNY Oswego this fall to practice their roles in responding to a terrorist incident at Oswego Harbor. The exercise involved 62 “players” from 24 different agencies, 10 observers, and 15 facilitators and evaluators.

The Port Security Exercise was facilitated by the U.S. Transportation Security Agency, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Part of the nationwide PortSTEP training program, its purpose was to test the local emergency response plans and their integration with the area maritime security plan with regard to a simulated terrorist event in the City of Oswego.

The “tabletop” exercise involved the entire port community. NRG Energy Inc., owner of the Oswego Steam Station, was the corporate sponsor. Substantial involvement by the 24 different agencies assured that all entities that could be expected to lend support during a real event had the opportunity to participate.

Private sector and industry partners included the Port of Oswego Authority, CSX, Sprague Energy, Lafarge and Essroc cement companies, and the NRG Oswego Steam Station. Also involved were local fire and EMS units, the Oswego County Emergency Management Office, and Oswego County Haz-Mat Team. Representing the law enforcement community were the Oswego County Sheriff's Office and SUNY and Oswego City police departments. New York State agencies included the State Emergency Management Office, Office of Homeland Security, and New York State Police.

“Protecting this port is a team effort,” according to Coast Guard Captain Scott Ferguson, Captain of the Port for the Eastern Great Lakes and federal Maritime Security Coordinator.

An Area Maritime Security Committee assists Ferguson in writing, reviewing and updating the area maritime security plan as necessary, in addition to supporting other transportation providers that depend upon the port being secure. The exercise helped agency representatives get acquainted and test how well they could coordinate a joint response making better use of the combined resources available. This included identifying preventive measures that can be used to help thwart a terrorist-related event.

Some other functions that were demonstrated in the exercise were notification and awareness, communication and mobilization of staff resources, and mitigation and response to a simulated terrorist event.

David Mergenthaler, security specialist and planner for the U.S. Coast Guard in Buffalo, and Patricia Egan, Oswego County Emergency Management Director, agreed that the exercise was a success.

“Protecting our community's infrastructure is vitally important to the safety and welfare of our residents and to our local economy,” said Egan. “It is a responsibility that we take very seriously.”

“It's very evident that the leaders in the Oswego community are very passionate about doing whatever needs to be done to protect and secure the infrastructure of the community,” said Mergenthaler.

For more information on emergency planning efforts in Oswego County, contact the Oswego County Emergency Management Office at 591-9150 or visit www.oswegocounty.com/emo.

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