FORT PIERCE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), along with various state and local agencies, participated today in a field training exercise at the Banner Center for Homeland Security & Defense located at Indian River State College’s (IRSC) Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex in Fort Pierce.
“Today’s exercise was designed to test and strengthen interagency cooperation with first responders when responding to chemical threats,” said DEP Division of Law Enforcement Director Henry Barnet. “The Environmental Response and Civil Support Teams provide a statewide capability to respond to chemically contaminated areas and collect evidence to support a criminal investigation, while the Forensic Response Teams provide the capability to perform criminal forensic tasks at a crime scene that could include a terrorist event. Coordination is key when facing crisis situations, so it is critical these teams train together.”
Organizations with experience in chemical and biological response tactics were involved in today’s exercise including: the DEP Division of Law Enforcement-led Environmental Response Team (ERT), the Florida National Guard’s 44th Civil Support Team (CST), and two Regional Domestic Security Forensics Response Teams (FRT). The teams were activated to respond to a fictional terrorist attack and practiced performing necessary assessment and processing evidence collected in order to provide direction to local, state and federal agencies.
“Any time we can conduct training and increase knowledge of hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction in Florida is time well spent,” said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Ladd, Commander of the 44th CST. “The Banner Center and this training exercise will enable us to practice the exact techniques, tactics and procedures necessary to respond to a terrorist threat, and that translates directly to lives being saved.”
The training focused on the performance capabilities of the various teams as they assessed and responded to a staged incident. They were tested on the basic technical aspects of assessment, scene processing, and evidence collection of both hazardous/biological chemicals and traditional evidence. Lessons learned from the exercise will strengthen cooperation between agencies.
“Assisting with training such as this is exactly what the Banner Center for Homeland Security & Defense was created to do,” said Stephen C. Huntsberger, Director of the Banner Center for Homeland Security & Defense and Dean of Public Service Education at IRSC. “Using the resources of the Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex at IRSC will maximize the learning experience by these emergency responders and help create a safer, more coordinated response to chemically contaminated environments.”
IRSC’s Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex is a 50-acre living laboratory featuring highly sophisticated and state-of-the-art facilities and resources used daily by public safety students and local, state and federal agencies. The Complex is home to the Employ Florida Banner Center for Homeland Security and Defense and is charged with providing education, training and information for Florida’s workforce on homeland security, emergency response and counter terrorism.
DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement is responsible for statewide environmental resource law enforcement, as well as providing law enforcement services to Florida’s state parks and greenways and trails. Division personnel from the three operational bureaus patrol state lands; investigate environmental resource crimes; and respond to natural disasters, civil unrest, hazardous material incidents and oil spills that threaten the environment.
To report an environmental crime, wireless customers can dial #DEP. Callers can also report environmental crimes to the State Warning Point by calling (877) 2-SAVE-FL (1.877.272.8335). General environmental inquiries should be directed to DEP district offices during normal business hours. For more information about DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/law.
"Today’s exercise was designed to test and strengthen interagency cooperation with first responders when responding to chemical threats."
Last updated: April 15, 2010