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October 17, 2002


Two-Day Drill Focused on City's Ability to
Respond to Terrorist Scenarios

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Commissioner John T. Odermatt announced the completion of "Operation United Strength," a two-day tabletop exercise drill moderated by the United States Naval War College and hosted by OEM. The exercises, which began yesterday, were designed to help determine the City's ability to respond to hypothetical terrorist attacks by exploring leadership roles and communications protocols among City officials. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the Naval War College's War Gaming Department Dr. Kenneth Watman, and Professor James R. Fitzsimonds, head researcher with the Naval War College, as well as other City, State, and Federal officials also participated in the exercise. In the spring, the Mayor participated in a bio-terrorism tabletop exercise, called "Operation Sandbox."

"New York City continues to improve its ability to effectively and rapidly respond to emergencies of all kinds," Mayor Bloomberg said. "By coordinating decision-making, operations, and communication strategies among the various agencies and key personnel, the City will be better prepared to protect all New Yorkers in the event the unthinkable becomes reality."

"The tragic events of September 11th have taught us that we can never rest in our efforts to prepare for the worst-case scenario," Commissioner Odermatt said. "By constantly reviewing and updating our emergency management protocols and responses, we are able to meet the new challenges that New York City faces in the 21st century. While these tabletop drills give us a unique opportunity to put what we have learned to the test, they are only an example of the many resources OEM uses to meet the challenges our City faces as we enter the 21st century."

"Similar to the war games we have moderated for the NYPD and FDNY, this exercise will focus on the decision-making and communication skills of leaders when confronted with a complex scenario," said Dr. Kenneth Watman, Director of the Naval War College's War Gaming Department. "This tabletop exercise demonstrates how the City of New York is continuing to prepare for possible contingencies. By bringing together the Commissioner, their expert staff, and the professional from the Naval War College, this exercise represents an important step in preparing a city to respond to future terrorist attacks."

The two-day exercises took place at OEM's temporary headquarters in Brooklyn, and at Con Edison's Learning Center in Queens. The seminar-style games raised potential threats to the City, and put demands on each participant's expertise in several fields, from preparedness and law enforcement to utility management and health/medical protocols.

"Operation United Strength" featured two phases. On the first day, Phase One was devoted to pre-incident planning, where participants discussed planning for an imminent, but undefined event. On the second day, Phase Two involved the Mayor and senior administration officials and participants examined and recommended how the City should best handle incident and post-incident situations.

Tabletop drills are held to provide a venue for assessment of emergency management procedures in an environment, which engages critical thinking by key personnel. The intent is to discover critical issues and insights from the context of the scenario. Participants focus on operational, strategic, policy and communications decisions and use the drill to evaluate their responses and how they could be improved in the event of a real emergency.

"Operation United Strength," the costs of which were covered by the U.S. Naval War College, was the latest in a series of drills held or hosted by OEM. Recent exercises include:

OEM is planning additional tabletop and field drills over the course of next year.

Contact: Ed Skyler / Jerry Russo
(212) 788-2958
Frank McCarton / Sid Dinsay (OEM)
(718) 422-4888
Cmdr. Susan M. Haeg (Naval War College)
(401) 841-2220