Washington Plans Terror Drills on Trains, Buses

Tuesday, 02 Feb 2010 07:41 AM


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WASHINGTON – Dozens of Metro Transit Police officers will swarm one of Washington's busiest stations during rush hour Tuesday with dogs and bomb technicians to demonstrate it can thwart potential attacks.

About 50 officers from various Metro police units, including its new anti-terror team, special response teams and criminal investigators were scheduled to begin their work at the station around 7:30 am (1330 GMT), transit agency officials said.

Metro, which services subway and bus passengers in Maryland, Virginia and the nation's capital, said it would not release the location of the station until after the exercise begins, and asked the media to refrain from disclosing it before that time.

"The event is meant to remind riders that Metro remains vigilant against terrorist activity," Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority spokeswoman Cathy Asato said in a recorded statement.

"It is important to remember there is no current threat to the transit agency or any elevated threat level."

The effort kicks off a series of broader emergency response exercises that will bring together participants from local law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services departments, federal agencies and multiple Metro departments.

Those tactical exercises -- which aim to avert disasters on the scale of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the London Underground bombings in 2005 and the Madrid commuter train attacks in 2004 -- are scheduled for February 12, 13 and 24.

They will be followed by two tabletop drills with emergency managers and senior leadership executives.

In a bid to help bolster its defenses against a potential attack, Metro formed a 20-member anti-terror team in December through a 9.6-million-dollar grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

The team conducts random patrols on the Metro system with higher visibility of uniformed officers and more frequent security sweeps of the system's facilities and tunnels.

"Ensuring the safety and security of our riders and employees while keeping our trains and buses running smoothly is at the heart of our mission," Metro Transit Police Acting Chief Jeff Delinski said in a statement.

"It's an unfortunate reality that we face the unknown risks, either natural or manmade.

"Metro and area emergency responders need to be prepared to respond to any form of terrorist attack or other crisis that would impact Metro's ability to provide essential transportation services in the National Capital Region," he added.

The February 12 drill will take place in the parking lot at Washington's Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Memorial Stadium. It will simulate an explosion on a Metrobus and an explosive found another Metrobus.

Officers will practice responding to an explosion on a Metrorail train in a tunnel connecting Virginia to Washington on Feb. 13.

On February 24, the scenario will involve active shooters reported at a busy shopping area in Friendship Heights, a northwestern neighborhood of the capital.

The exercises are funded through a 1.2-million-dollar grant with the Department of Homeland Security's Urban Area Security Initiative.

© AFP 2014

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