Homeland Security exercises slated at Port of Tacoma

A full-scale homeland security training exercise will take place at the Port of Tacoma July 24. Tideflats-area businesses and residents with views of the Port area may observe emergency response vehicles, simulated explosions and smoke and limited on-water activity on Commencement Bay.

According to officials from the Center for Asymmetric Warfare (CAW), a federally-funded, national center aimed at protecting U.S. forces, citizens and property, this activity will not disrupt normal business activity and should not create visual or audible distractions outside the immediate Port area.

The Port of Tacoma exercise is expected to begin at 8 a.m. and will conclude by early afternoon. There will be no public or media access to the exercise.

The CAW exercise launches Friday with the simulated seizure of a ferry in Steilacoom and concludes a few days later with disasters and mock terrorist attacks around the Puget Sound. In all, more than 50 agencies will participate in the two-phase exercise, including participants from the Department of Defense and federal, state, county, local and private entities.

The Asymmetric Warfare Initiative exercise is designed to challenge local, state and federal agencies to assemble rapidly and establish a coordinated response to multiple terrorist attacks. Participants will practice specialized tactics, techniques and procedures aimed at preventing an attack and lessening human, social and economic impacts.

Funded by the United States Congress through the Asymmetric Warfare Initiative, the exercise is the fifth of its kind to be conducted in the Puget Sound region.

The objective of the exercise is to provide demanding, scenario-driven events that prompt agencies to assemble rapidly and establish a coordinated response using procedures mandated by the National Incident Management System. It is also designed to challenge agency participants’ technical capabilities, as well as communication and coordination of efforts for responding to multiple, serious events.

The Center for Asymmetric Warfare (CAW) is a national center dedicated to protecting U.S. forces, citizens and property against asymmetric threats. CAW provides testing, training and experimentation for Department of Defense expeditionary forces to prepare them to counter the effects of asymmetric warfare, both outside of the United States and in concert with federal, state and local authorities in a homeland security environment.

Activities will begin at the Steilacoom Ferry Dock, July 19 and 20, and will include a hostage situation on a ferry. Ferries are the second largest transit system in Washington State, servicing about 25 million riders per year. The Anderson Island ferry will be used in the exercise.

Exercise activities will continue the following week at the Port of Tacoma on July 24, the location of last year’s exercise. Scenarios will include both terrorist and non-terrorist activities and the distinction between the two could be ambiguous, further challenging participants.

The United States Coast Guard Sector Command, USCG District 13, the Captain of the Port of Seattle, Pier 90/91 Facility Security, Port of Seattle Police, Seattle Fire, U. S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will have a concurrent exercise to validate their Alien Migrant Interdiction Operation (AMIO) plan. This scenario involves a fishing vessel that arrives with people aboard who do not have proper identification and a civil disturbance with an attempt to enter secured areas.