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Largest terror drill ever called topoff3 { April 4 2005 }

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Largest-ever anti-terror drill to begin today in Union

Associated Press Writer

April 4, 2005, 1:21 AM EDT

UNION, N.J. -- The largest anti-terrorism drill ever undertaken in the United States will get underway Monday morning with a simulated bio-terror attack at Kean University.

As part of the $16 million TOPOFF 3 drill, named for the top-level state and national officials behind it, the drill will simulate a bio-terror attack in Union County, the ripples of which will quickly spread to Middlesex County and beyond.

At the same time, a simulated chemical weapons attack will take place in New London, Conn. Top federal Homeland Security officials will monitor how the drills unfold from a command center in Washington.

The New Jersey drill is intended to stress the state's emergency response and medical systems to the breaking point, to expose weaknesses that would only become apparent in a catastrophe as thousands of victims flood the system.

"We are better prepared than most states in America," Acting Gov. Richard Codey said. "We will put New Jersey's terrorism preparedness to a very thorough test. It will be a very realistic exercise."

It will be so realistic, in fact, the Codey worries about people who haven't gotten word that a drill is underway might think the country is under a real terrorist attack. It is a valid concern, given that emergency vehicles with sirens blaring and lights flashing will be filling local roadways, and teams of first-responders wearing hazardous materials suits will be wandering around.

Codey advises anyone who sees something amiss and who is unsure if there is a real problem to call the state's Domestic Security Task Force at 1-866-4SAFENJ.

More than 10,000 people will participate in the drills in New Jersey and Connecticut, as well as in Canada and England, where officials will conduct related exercises.

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

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