TOPOFF 2000 was a single, full-scale exercise conducted over 10 days in three venues:
- Denver, CO: Bioterrorism attack (Plague).
- Portsmouth, NH: Chemical attack (Sulfur Mustard).
- National Capital Region: NCR 2000, concurrent but separate exercise (Radiological Dispersal Device).
Exercise TOPOFF (Top Officials) 2000 was a Congressionally mandated, "no-notice" national exercise held in May 2000. It was designed to assess the nation's crisis and consequence management capability by exercising the plans, policies, procedures, systems, and facilities through local, state, and Federal responses to geographically-dispersed terrorist threats and acts. The exercise was co-sponsored by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which were designated as the lead agencies for the exercise by the Senate Appropriations Committee in Senate Report 105-235. The exercise was the largest peacetime terrorism exercise ever sponsored by DOJ or FEMA.
Exercise TOPOFF was a multi-component, multi-site exercise incorporating command post exercises, full-scale training exercises, tactical exercises, and several large-scale "subexercises." The Exercise incorporated design input from crisis and consequence managers across the nation. An important aim of the Exercise was to examine the interfaces and relationships between the participating agencies and their top officials to identify any seams, gaps, and redundancy in responsibilities that affect decision-making and subsequent actions directed to resolve the scope of consequences resulting from the simulated attacks
The Exercise scenario involved simultaneous incidents occurring in both Region I (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) and Region VIII (Denver, Colorado). STARTEX for Exercise TOPOFF occurred on Wednesday, May 17, 2000, with the terrorist-motivated release of a biological agent in the Denver metropolitan area. However, because the released agent, later identified as pneumonic plague, had a two to three day incubation period, active play did not begin until Saturday, May 20, 2000. As an influx of patients exhibiting flu-like symptoms began to rapidly overwhelm the Denver area hospitals by early Saturday morning, a van exploded at the Port Authority dock in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, causing numerous injuries and fatalities. The chemical agent released in the van explosion was subsequently determined to be mustard gas. Active play continued at both venues through the weekend and the following week, ending on Wednesday, May 24, 2000. An interagency hotwash followed on Thursday, May 25th.
Planning for Exercise TOPOFF, as well as the National Capital Region 2000 Exercise, involved several "trusted agents" from EPA and USCG, as well as regional offices in RRTs I, III, and VIII. Through this process, EPA and USCG also cooperated closely with other National Response System (NRS) departments and agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and FEMA.
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