- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Emergency personnel across the nation’s capital and surrounding area plan to conduct a “full-scale” counterterrorism exercise Wednesday in Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

Police officers, firefighters and other first responders will participate in drills across the region Wednesday meant to prepare for the possibility of a “complex coordinated terror attack,” organizers said in a statement.

“The regional exercise will be staged at six sites in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia, and will involve hundreds of police, fire and emergency medical service personnel and volunteer actors,” said the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, a nonprofit association comprised of local governments from throughout greater Washington metropolitan area.

“Law enforcement officials practice and exercise their skills on their own regularly because that’s the best way to ensure we are always ready to respond quickly and professionally,” said Scott Boggs, managing director of homeland security and public safety at COG. “On April 26, we’ll go one step further and stage a very realistic emergency event involving multiple sites and actors posing as the casualties.

The drill has been in the works for more than a year in the wake of terror attacks such as the 2015 assault in Paris that unfolded at multiple locations ranging from cafes and restaurants to a concert hall, Newsweek reported.

“An event that has multiple locations that don’t necessarily follow jurisdictional lines poses a challenge for command and control, resourcing, things of that nature. It’s only appropriate for us to approach that regionally and ensure that we’re all prepared for and ready to manage it,” Mr. Boggs told Newsweek.

“The target of the exercise is to make sure that we’re prepared. What we don’t want is the side effect of creating concern or fear because of the activities associated with the exercise,” he said.

Area residents likely affected by the exercise will be warned in advance, the MWCOG said in a statement Monday, but organizers are otherwise trying to keep details about the drill under wraps.

“To some degree they’re trying to make it a surprise for the participants,” MWCOG spokeswoman Jeanne Saddler told ARLnow in Arlington. “In order to maintain the exercise for participants and first responders, we have to avoid making a mention of locations.”

While the organization declined to identify the specific locations involved in Wednesday’s exercise, ARLnow said members of the Arlington police SWAT team will take part in an exercise near George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.

The region isn’t the only area to host counterterrorism drills as of late. About 200 emergency personnel participated in a simulated terror attack earlier this month in Jones Beach, New York, and over 80 agencies were involved in a drill in a recent Florida drill described as the largest emergency training exercise in the state’s history.

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