Agencies gear up for simulated terrorist threat in Juneau

City will test its Emergency Operations Center inside police headquarters

Posted: Thursday, February 19, 2004

In case terrorists ever target Juneau, local police, state troopers and the Coast Guard are responding to a simulated threat.

For a week starting today there will be about 100 additional military personnel in the area, and Juneau residents could see more people in uniform.

There may be more sirens on the streets, more military aircraft in the skies and at the airport and more Coast Guard vessels on the water, said Rear Adm. James Underwood, commander of the Coast Guard in Alaska. The Alaska Marine Highway also will participate.

There will be few troop movements and little activity will be apparent to the general public. Coast Guard Lt. Brad Wilson said most of the troop activity around Juneau will be on the water.

"There won't be any big bangs or anything like that," Underwood said.

The activities will be part of an exercise labeled Unified Defense 04, which will involve hundreds of people from more than 60 federal, state and local agencies nationwide, according to information released jointly by the city and Coast Guard.

The nationwide exercise will include a series of simulated natural disasters as well as terrorist activities. In addition to maritime and port security events in Juneau and Southeast Alaska, mock scenarios will include a hurricane and radiological events in Texas and aerospace defense activities in several locations.

U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., will coordinate military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Coast Guard.

City Manager Rod Swope said the exercise will provide a unique opportunity for Juneau. The city's main focus will be to test its Emergency Operations Center inside police department headquarters.

"I expect us to learn a lot," he said. "I'm sure we'll discuss some weaknesses. In the event something happens (in the future), we'll be well prepared."

Underwood said Alaska officials wanted the state to be involved in the exercise, "and Juneau stepped up to the plate."

Swope said the city's involvement in the exercise will not disrupt normal police activities.

The exercise will allow agencies to test a communications system that will permit the Coast Guard, state troopers, local police and other emergency agencies to talk to each other and work together.

A Galaxy C-5 is scheduled to fly in a security team from San Pedro, Calif., to deal with the simulated threat, Underwood said. The strategic airlift jet is nearly 250 feet long with a wingspan of 222 feet.

What sort of terrorist threat Juneau will face was unknown Wednesday, Underwood said.

Underwood said he expects results of the exercise to be made public, up to a point.

"Certainly if we learn anything that reflects vulnerabilities of the United States, we won't let that out," he added.

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