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Operation Silver shows ISU still has work to do

Improving inter agency communication key lesson from Olympic security exercise



Better communication and keeping track of who is responsible for what when an incident happens were just two of the lessons learned during a massive 2010 Games readiness security exercise earlier this year.

In all, more than 1,000 participants from 100 agencies took part in Exercise Silver, which ran from Feb. 9th to 13th.

"I think the overall message is that we still have some work to do," said Cpl. Jen Allen, spokeswoman for the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit (ISU), which is responsible for security during next year's Olympics.

"But overall we are confident of where we are in terms of the planning, we are testing appropriately, we are identifying gaps and we are confident that we are going to close those gaps prior to the Games."

Canadian Forces Lt. Col. Graham Thornton, deputy chief of staff support for Joint Task Force Games, echoed the sentiment.

"All in all pretty positive," he said from his base in Esquimalt.

"(There were) a few lessons learned and we are adjusting to take care of those."

Led by the RCMP, the ISU consists of members from the Vancouver Police Department, West Vancouver Police Department, the Canadian Forces and other agencies. It has carried out two security simulation exercises, Bronze and Silver and will complete a third, Gold, late this fall.

The 2009 security budget for the Games is $900 million, up from an original budget of $175 million.

Everything, from how the Richmond Command Centre functioned, to the evacuation of injured people, to the deployment of Special Forces in a terrorist incident, was tested in February.

"Exercise Silver allowed us to practice complex areas like aviation and marine security procedure," said Allen.

"We have to realize that there is a strict command structure in place during the Games so that in the event of a major incident during the Games we know how the decisions are going to be made and by whom."

Some of the simulations included:

• Evacuation of a spectator injured at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

• Evacuation of injured security personnel from the backcountry after their snowmobiles went off a cliff.

• A serious traffic accident on the Sea to Sky Highway involving a bus and cars. There were injures and casualties. Not only did the accident need to be analyzed, ISU carried out notification procedures for next of kin.

• A CBRN incident - that is an incident with weaponized or non-weaponized Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear materials that can cause great harm and pose significant threats in the hands of terrorists.