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September 27, 2007
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Urban Shield: Calif. LE agencies gather for training exercise

By Rachel Cohen
Inside Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. — When the Oakland hills firestorm burned through more than 3,400 homes and killed 25 people in 1991, it was a test of how well law enforcement agencies could communicate with each other once they were out in the field.

Now, many of the public safety professionals who battled that horror are retired and many of today's younger members don't remember it.

This weekend, some 300 public safety professionals from throughout California and the nation will be meeting in Alameda County to participate in a drill dubbed "Urban Shield," which was organized by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

It is estimated to be the largest training exercise in the U.S. and is the first geared toward the local urban environment, sheriff's spokesman J.D. Nelson said.

"There will be a scenario where you, as a team, go into an area and hear, 'Thank God you guys are here,'" Nelson said. "And then you have to deal with it."

Twenty-four tactical SWAT teams of seven or eight people each will run through exercises for more than 50 consecutive hours.

How they choose to find time to sleep is up to them, Nelson said, but most will have time only for catnaps among the 23 scenarios, ranging from a terrorist intrusion at a nuclear center to a college campus shooting.

Each of the exercises is a competition, and though the Alameda County Sheriff's Office might be tempted to boast that it will win them all, it is likely to encounter competition from the California Department of Corrections in the "Quell Inmate Uprising" exercise and the Coast Guard in the "Maritime Interdiction" exercise.

The exercises will be spread among 22 sites in Alameda and San Mateo counties, based on the physical layout needed, including four in Oakland, three in Sunol, and two each in San Leandro, Dublin, Livermore, Alameda and Foster City.

Ten teams in all are coming from Alameda County, including the Oakland Police Department. San Mateo County is sending three, and there are also contingents from the Contra Costa, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Stanislaus county sheriff's offices. A team from Boston also is flying in.

Nelson said agencies will likely count the exercise toward their required training hours. Urban Shield is funded through a regional Homeland Security program.

"Eventually, (the officers) know that facility where they train regularly, and there are only so many repetitions and routines you can do there," Nelson added.

While the four-day Urban Shield, starting Friday, promises to challenge the physical and mental skills of the participating tactical team members, Nelson said it also will be an interoperability test for the management team.

As has often been found in debriefings after natural disasters, many people show up ready to help, but deploying and then keeping track of everybody can be where the network starts to unravel, Nelson said.

"(The exercise) will also be figuring out systems in the field," he added. "It will be equally good training for the management of a disaster."

Copyright 2007 Inside Bay Area

Copyright 2007 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
All Rights Reserved

Full story: Urban Shield: Calif. LE agencies gather for training exercise






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