TOPOFF 2 Exercise Illustrated Weaknesses, FEMA Says

A report prepared by the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says that a WMD-response exercise held six months ago demonstrated a lack of information-sharing and uncertainties as to chains of command among U.S. agencies, the Wall Street Journal reported (see GSN, Oct. 21.).

During the TOPOFF2 exercise, emergency response teams could not obtain vital equipment because it was unknown which agency was responsible for them, according to the report. It also says that officials deployed emergency response personnel and equipment without notifying their superiors, the Journal reported. 

FEMA also found that federal agents did not share intelligence because of a lack of security clearances and that there was widespread confusion over Homeland Security’s color-coded terrorist threat level, according to the Journal

“Fortunately, this was only a test,” the report says. “However, if a real incident occurs before final procedures are established, such unnecessary confusion will be unacceptable,” it says.

A government observer at the exercise said the extent of confusion was significant because it occurred despite the extensive prenotification of the state and federal officials, according to the Journal.

“The criticisms are among the worst I’ve ever heard, especially when you take into account the scope of this drill,” the observer said (Robert Block, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 31).

October 31, 2003
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A report prepared by the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says that a WMD-response exercise held six months ago demonstrated a lack of information-sharing and uncertainties as to chains of command among U.S. agencies, the Wall Street Journal reported (see GSN, Oct. 21.).

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