Department of Environmental Conservation Spearheads Multi-Agency Training Exercise to Improve Homeland Security, Water Quality and Maritime
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the start of "Operation Blue Trident" - a multi-agency homeland security training exercise on Long Island that will deploy more than 100 personnel from 23 local, state and federal agencies conducting radiological detection training, as well as navigational boating safety, marine fisheries compliance, and environmental monitoring operations throughout the week. Residents and visitors to the area are urged to be aware that this is only an exercise.
"Long Island is a vital gateway to the New York Metropolitan area, and we must be fully prepared to handle any crisis that threatens the wellbeing of New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said. "Preparedness, organization and coordination are key in any emergency response, and this exercise will help ensure that New York is ready and able to deal with anything that threatens our heath, environment, or security."
This full-scale exercise, which is being led by the Department of Environmental Conservation Environmental Conservation Officers with strong support from the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, is the first training of its kind in eastern Long Island and is constructed in accordance with federal Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program guidelines. It will employ 24 vessels at various locations across Suffolk County's east end and will be teamed with water quality, maritime navigational, and marine fisheries compliance efforts.
At least 50 DEC police and civilian support staff and more than 50 law enforcement officials from more than 20 local, state and federal agencies will be utilized in the exercise, including:
- Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Counter Terrorism
- Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Emergency Management
- State Police Troop L
- State Park Police
- New York State Naval Militia
- New York Army National Guard Civil Support Team
- State Police Department Counter Terrorism Division
- Suffolk County Police Department
- Suffolk County Sheriff's Office
- Nassau County Police Department
- East End Marine Task Force (East Hampton, Riverhead, Southampton, Southold, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island, Westhampton and Quogue Police Departments)
- Federal Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
- U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island
- U.S. Customs and Border Patrol
- National Marine Fisheries Service
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "DEC's Environmental Conservation Officers who patrol our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York's environment, our natural resources and public health. I commend our staff for coordinating this important training on Long Island and bringing together all partners for this vital emergency preparedness exercise which will ensure proper coordination in any future environmental or homeland security incidents."
The operation is being conducted in two phases. Phase I is a shore-based water quality initiative that took place from Aug. 2-16 to identify and remove threats to Long Island waterways. DEC ECOs, Region 1 Spills Response Unit, pesticide and water quality staff, along with U.S. Coast Guard and the Suffolk County Health Department, inspected marinas and other shore-based facilities to investigate petroleum bulk storage, pesticides, and sewage point-source discharges to ensure regulatory compliance.
Phase 2, which runs from Aug. 16-19, will focus on the structured homeland security/radiological training in actual maritime operations and will include navigational safety, foreign vessel interdiction, and marine fisheries and water quality compliance efforts.
DEC and Suffolk County Police will also conduct tactical weapons of mass destruction training, enhancing the skills needed to intercept illicit radiological materials in rapidly emerging situations. The East End Task Force and partners will be conducting "OP SHIELD" activities over the course of the weekend, focusing on navigational safety and boating while impaired enforcement, while ECOs will address threats to water quality such as unsecured marine sanitation devices, threats to fisheries stocks, and general navigational safety.
Operation Blue Trident will accomplish several objectives:
- Improve maritime counter-terrorism capabilities and agency responses to natural and man-made disasters through real-world threat exercises;
- Bring together local, state and federal agencies working jointly to help prevent the illicit transport of materials posing a significant public safety threat;
- Enhance partnerships and improve coordination with agencies that protect Long Island and the metropolitan New York City area;
- Protect Long Island water quality from pollution and sewage threats;
- Improve boater safety and protect marine fisheries through navigational enforcement; and
- Educate the boating public on homeland security issues, including the "See Something - Say Something" Safeguard New York campaign to get the public to recognize suspicious activity.
An added benefit of this maritime homeland security training exercise is its applicability to a range of potential incidents, both natural and manmade, that might affect Long Island's east end waters, including hurricanes, major oil spills, vessel collisions or groundings, and plane crashes. The same multi-agency planning, coordination and operations employed for Operation Blue Trident will prove highly valuable in any of these possible disasters.
Also this week, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services' Office of Counter Terrorism will conduct approximately 70 counter terrorism exercises to test their suspicious activity reporting programs. Law enforcement teams will visit a wide variety of locations on Long Island, including mass gathering sites, truck rental companies, various retail stores, marinas and other public locations. After each visit, homeland security, federal, state and local partners discuss encounters with each location to point out successful actions and areas of improvement.
Long Island, at approximately 118 miles in length, provides an international maritime route of entry into New York State, and Long Island Sound and associated inland bays provide a natural sanctuary for potential smuggling of terrorists and/or radiological devices to the New York City metropolitan area. Long Island is also an active location for recreational boating, home to nearly 77,000 state registered vessels. The high population density and potentially dangerous maritime conditions creates the possibility of significant navigational safety risks.
DEC has coordinated similar joint training exercises like this in the past on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and, just last year, Operation Clear passage on Lake Champlain.
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Roger L. Parrino, Sr. said, "The consequences associated with the malicious use of nuclear and other radioactive materials by nefarious state or non-state actors, could be catastrophic. It is imperative that all maritime law enforcement teams regularly conduct this type of exercise along the state's waterways. This week's exercise, which supports the Department of Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office 'Securing the Cities' program, helps ensure that Long Island's maritime law enforcement teams have the capability to detect and protect against radiological and nuclear threats."
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, "Operation Blue Trident provides an opportunity for our members to sharpen their skills while working alongside our state and federal partners. This training is critically important because it ensures all of the agencies involved are prepared to handle any type of emergency response."
Assemblyman Fred Thiele said, "Operation Blue Trident is an important exercise to protect our water quality, environment, and our homeland security. Through a federal FEMA grant, this operation will improve coordination and preparedness of our State, County and local law enforcement agencies. Training in a maritime environment will be undertaken that could be applicable to a full range of potential future incidents, including hurricanes, oil spills, or a radiological incident. At a time of increased risk to New York's security, law enforcement must be prepared for all eventualities. The State DEC is to be commended for spearheading this effort."
New York State Park Police Chief David Page said, "New York State Park Police Officers bring unique training and skills to bear when it comes to protecting the residents and natural resources of New York State. The residents of the state are all safer when local, state and federal law enforcement agencies coordinate their resources in exercises like Operation Blue Trident to prepare for the threats we could face."
New York State Naval Militia Commander Anthony P. German said, "This exercise is an excellent opportunity for the New York Naval Militia, along with other elements of New York's military forces, to train with local law enforcement and other state agencies. The time we spend training with other agencies makes us more effective when the Governor calls on us to aid local governments and New York's citizens."
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy D. Sini said, "Operation Blue Trident is an important and comprehensive joint training exercise that we are excited to participate in. Our trained experts in Emergency Services Section, Marine Bureau, Homeland Security, Aviation Section and Highway Patrol Bureau serve and protect our residents and visitors by land, sea and air each and every single day. This additional collaboration of intensive training between our department and our partners in local, regional and federal law enforcement will further prepare us for the call-to-action in the event of man-made or natural disaster."
Suffolk County Chief Deputy Sheriff Michael Sharkey said, "The Suffolk County Sheriff's Office is pleased to participate in "Operation Blue Trident" along with our partner agencies in the East End Marine Task Force. We are grateful to the State for conducting it in our area, recognizing the significance of the east end as a gateway to the greater metropolitan area. These training exercises and workshops will build our skills and working relationships with our partner agencies, strengthening our capability to protect Long Island and enhancing the safety of the residents in our area of operations."
Nassau County Commissioner of Police Patrick Ryder said, "This multi-jurisdictional Blue Trident Operation will not only ensure compliance with New York State Navigational Laws to protect our environment, it will also enhance the overall security and safety of our vast waterways for our residents. I would like to thank all of the agencies involved for their continued support and diligence in keeping our waterways safe."