PARIS – Plans are being formulated to stage a large weapons of mass destruction/terrorist exercise program in Paris sometime in 2004.

Oxford Emergency Management Agency Director Dan Schorr said the Maine EMA in conjunction with the Domestic Preparedness of the U.S. Department of Justice has instituted the training and Oxford County has been selected to participate.

“This exercise program will include two tabletop exercises, a functional exercise and eventually a full-scale exercise,” Schorr said. “The tentative scenario for these exercises is a terrorist act against a rail car filled with hazardous material near the Main Street rail crossing in South Paris.”

He said those asked to participate are officials from the Stephens Memorial Hospital, SAD 17, St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad, various state agencies, town officials and first responders such as fire and police officials.

He said the first tabletop exercise will happen on Dec. 6. Participants will get together in a non-threatening, non-intimidating environment and based on the proposed event, ask questions, talk about solutions and learn “what works and what doesn’t work.”

“We will go through this stuff to find out what gaps might be in our plans,” Schorr said. “We will get the school district involved because of the proximity of the (Oxford Hills) middle school, the (Mildred M.) Fox School and the (Oxford Hills Comprehensive) high school.

“We’ll get principals and leadership in the district involved,” he said. “We’ll ask, ‘How should we handle it? Should we evacuate the kids? How is our communications with the incident commander, and other things.'”

Schorr said many of the problems an event like this might cause have been talked about, but things change when they are put together with a scenario.

He said the tabletop exercise would be beneficial because people will probably discover a lot of holes in their plans and things that were never considered or forgotten. He also said one of the benefits would be that everyone gets to meet everyone else.

A second tabletop meeting will be held after the Dec. 6 meeting and then a functional exercise, and finally a full-scale exercise.

Schorr explained that a functional exercise is where participants gather at one place and go through the exercise checking out communication systems.

“It’s like a full-scale exercise, but everybody is indoors,” Schorr said. “It’s much more intense than the tabletop exercise.”

He said the full-scale exercise will probably have to be at a place other than Main Street.

“We can’t tie up Main Street in South Paris for four or five hours,” he said.

There is no timetable set for the meetings, other than the first tabletop meeting.


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