Houston Drill Tests Agencies' Preparedness
A mock explosion, fire and oil spill in the Houston Ship Channel, a lifeline for the nation's busy energy industry, provided a test this week for federal, state and local agencies and their ability to work together in the event of a terrorist attack.
More than 300 people from nearly two-dozen agencies participated in the exercise. Initially, officials weren't told whether the incident was an act of terrorism. The shipping channel was closed as a precaution.
The fire later was determined to be caused by a mechanical breakdown in the engine room of the ship Cape Trinity, a floating warehouse as long as two football fields.
Many aspects of the emergency were planned for: Coast Guard teams with assault rifles and bomb-sniffing dogs secure a pier; crewmembers don camouflage gear and helmets as they take on the duties of securing the ship against possible terrorists; and, at a joint information center, officials field calls from television networks and other media outlets.
Yet the drill involved several complications: an out-of-control fire, a firefighter who's down and a 252,000-gallon oil spill that leaks from the ship when a fuel tank ruptures.
Agencies participating in the drill also included the FBI, Customs and Border Patrol, the Port of Houston Authority and local police.
Steve Inskeep talks to Joe Leonard, a Coast Guard lieutenant who leads the agency's response in the Houston-Galveston area.
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