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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Exercise Division (NED) oversees the National Exercise Program (NEP).
The first series of drills was called TOPOFF, which ran from 2000 to 2009.
The second series was called National Level Exercises (NLE), and ran from 2009 to 2012.
TOPOFF is short for TOP OFFICIALS. Governors, mayors, city managers, top federal and state officials, and others play active roles.
Sponsored by the US Department of Homeland Security Office for State and Local Government Coordination.
Designed to involve all levels of government as well as emergency service responders including police, fire, public health workers and others.
States volunteer to participate in TOPOFF; two are chosen for each cycle.
May 20, 2000 – The first TOPOFF drill is mandated by Congress in 1998. It lasts ten days and costs $3.5 million.
The exercise features a bioterrorism attack in Denver, a chemical warfare attack in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and other activities in Washington.
In New Hampshire, a mix of garlic and Gatorade is substituted for a bomb armed with mustard gas.
State officials say the drill taught them that rescue personnel need better training and protective gear.
May 12-16, 2003 – Takes place in Chicago and Seattle.
TOPOFF 2 is a “five-day, full-scale exercise and simulation of how the Nation would respond in the event of a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) attack.”
Created by the Department of Homeland Security, the weeklong set of drills cost an estimated $16 million.
More than 8,500 people from 100 federal, state and local agencies, as well as the American Red Cross and Canadian government, are involved.
The Seattle event is a dirty bomb, while the Chicago event is the release of a deadly biological agent.
April 4-8, 2005 – Takes place in Connecticut and New Jersey. Approximately 10,000 participants from 27 federal agencies, state, county and local officials and more than 150 private sector and non-government organizations take part. In total, over 275 government and private organizations participate. Interrelated events take place in Canada (TRIPLE PLAY) and Great Britain (ATLANTIC BLUE).
The Connecticut event simulates a chemical weapons attack in New London; the New Jersey event simulates a vehicle-launched bioterror attack.
TOPOFF 3 carries a budget of approximately $16 million.
October 15-19, 2007 – Takes place in Portland, Oregon, Phoenix, and the US territory of Guam.
The event is based on a scenario in which terrorists detonate a simulated “dirty bomb” in Guam, with similar, coordinated attacks later taking place in Phoenix and Portland. Dirty bombs, formally known as Radiological Dispersal Devices, are conventional explosives that release radioactive material upon explosion.
TOPOFF 4 involves more than 15,000 federal, state, territorial and local participants. Of that number, approximately 4,500 are involved in the activities in Oregon.
This is the first TOPOFF event to include the participation of a US territory.
National Level Exercises
July 27-31, 2009 – Takes place at federal headquarters facilities in Washington, DC and in federal, regional, state, tribal, local and private sector facilities in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and California. Additionally, Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom participate.
The NLE 2009 scenario begins in the aftermath of a national terrorist event outside of the United States, and the exercise centers on preventing efforts by the terrorists to enter the United States and carry out additional attacks.
The exercise focuses exclusively on terrorism prevention and protection, as opposed to incident response and recovery.
May 17-18, 2010 – NLE 2010 engages federal, state and local partners in a series of events to demonstrate and assess federal emergency preparedness capabilities pertaining to a simulated terrorist attack involving an improvised nuclear device. As part of NLE 2010, all federal agencies within the NCR participate in Eagle Horizon 2010, an exercise that requires federal departments and agencies to demonstrate their capability to perform mission essential functions in the event of a major emergency.
May 2011 – Takes place at command posts, emergency operation centers and other locations, including federal facilities in Washington, DC and federal, regional, state, tribal, local and private sector facilities in the eight-member states of the Central United States Earthquake Consortium. The eight-member states are: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas and Missouri.
March-June 2012 – NLE 2012 tests the nation’s response to cyber incidents that have “virtual and real-world implications.”
2012 – The NLE changes its name to the Capstone Exercise.
2013 – The Capstone Exercise changes its format to a two-year cycle.
2014 – The Capstone Exercise includes the following multi-event exercises: The Alaska Shield 2014, Ardent Sentry 14, Nuclear Weapon Accident/Incident Exercise, Eagle Horizon 2014, and Silver Phoenix 2014.
April 20-21, 2015 – Eagle Horizon 2015 takes place throughout Washington.
2019 – The 2019-2020 National Exercise Program begins.
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