9/8/2007 12:00 AM
A disaster is looming in Brenham.
Local jurisdictions throughout the seven-county Brazos Valley area will participate in a regional Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Communication Interoperability Exercise Tuesday and Wednesday.
The host jurisdictions will be the city of Brenham and Washington County. First responders from all seven counties will converge on the Washington County fairgrounds in response to a catastrophic event — an explosion and train derailment in Brenham.
The exercise will also test the ability of various Brazos Valley jurisdictions to communicate interoperably during response operations, organizers say.
The exercise is designed to help prepare jurisdictions to manage the consequences of a WMD event with emphasis on the first 12-24 hours after a terrorist attack. The scenario includes, as a result of the train derailment, a chlorine gas leak that affects hundreds of people attending a festival in downtown Brenham.
City of Brenham and Washington County officials will work through the steps of responding to such an event, including requesting assistance from the Brazos Valley Regional Multi-Agency Coordination Center (MACC) and the District Disaster Committee (DDC).
The exercise is sponsored by the Texas Governor’s Division of Emergency Management and is conducted by the National Emergency Response & Rescue training Center (NERRTC), a division of the Texas Engineering Extension Service of the Texas A&M University System.
Jurisdictions will be required to demonstrate the capability to execute interoperability in accordance with the Texas Radio Interoperability Communications Plan and the Texas Interoperable Channel Plan. The exercise will allow the individual participants and staffs to work together and improve overall response abilities and staff coordination.
The exercise will begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday and conclude around noon on Wednesday. City of Brenham and Washington County officials will send requests for resources to the Brazos Valley MACC, which will be located at the College Station Emergency Operations Center.
The MACC will be charged with finding resources throughout the seven-county region to support the rescue and recovery efforts of the catastrophic incident. Those requested resources not available within the seven-county area will be forwarded to the DDC for state assistance.
Seven months of preparation have led up to this week’s big event. Local elected officials, emergency management coordinators and communications specialists have participated in many planning meetings, including a regional tabletop exercise held Aug. 9 at the Brazos Valley Council of Governments (BVCOG) in Bryan.
The Governor’s Division of Emergency Management (GDEM) launched a statewide effort to conduct regional communications interoperability/terrorism exercises. NERRTC has been charged with directing such exercises in every council of governments planning region. The BVCOG has hosted several meetings and workshops leading up to this regional exercise.
Preparation for this event began in March 2007.