Department of Justice Seal



Thursday, April 27, 2000

(202) 616-2777


TDD (202) 514-1888



State and Local Law Enforcement/Emergency Responders from
Denver Metropolitan Area and Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Participate

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Justice and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will conduct a Congressionally-mandated domestic counterterrorism response exercise that will take place in the Denver, Colorado metropolitan area and Portsmouth, New Hampshire during May 2000. Although counterterrorism response exercises are conducted routinely across the country, this marks the first time that an exercise of this scope, with the participation of top-level federal, state and local officials, has ever been conducted. The exercise consists of a combination of weapons of mass destruction incidents, but there will be no release of any actual weapons or agents.

In 1998, Congress directed the Attorney General and the Director of FEMA to undertake an exercise that involves all key personnel -- federal agency personnel and state and local emergency responders, including law enforcement, fire and emergency medical personnel -- who would participate in the crisis and consequence management of a domestic weapons of mass destruction terrorist attack. The goal of the exercise, called "TOPOFF" because of the involvement of top officials, is to assess the nation's crisis and consequence management capacity under extraordinarily stressful conditions. Consistent with legislative recommendations, the TOPOFF exercise will simulate a chemical and a biological attack.

The exercise scenarios will enable top officials and relevant personnel to practice different courses of action, gain and maintain situational awareness, and assemble appropriate resources. Mayors, city managers, state governors and local and state personnel will be key participants and play active roles throughout the exercise.

"It is important for us to train and prepare for any type of terrorist act," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "TOPOFF, along with regional exercises that are conducted routinely, can only help us to better educate and train responders across all levels of government."

At the urging of Congress, the exercise will be conducted without advance notice to participants. It is scheduled to take place in May over a 10-day period. Specific dates and characteristics of the exercise are being withheld from participants who will be responding as they would in a real-life situation.

At the same time, the FBI, Department of Energy and FEMA will conduct NCR-2000, a separate, but concurrent domestic counterterrorism exercise in the D.C. metropolitan area (Prince Georges County, MD, and Washington, DC), with state and local emergency responders, including law enforcement. NCR-2000-short for National Capital Region 2000-consists of previously planned exercises and will complement the TOPOFF activities occurring in Portsmouth and Denver and involve an undisclosed type of mass destruction weapon.

The Department of Justice's Office for State and Local Domestic Preparedness Support in conjunction with FEMA, established a group of federal, state and local interagency partners to develop the concept and conduct planning for the exercise. Federal representatives include: the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Energy, Health and Human Services, Transportation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the National Security Council; the Central Intelligence Agency; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the General Services Administration. State and local representatives include officials from the offices of Governors, Mayors, emergency management agencies, other high-ranking local officials and the first responders themselves.

"It is vitally important that our nation be prepared for the consequences of a terrorist event," said FEMA Director James Lee Witt.

The sites were chosen based on discussions that took place during a May 1999 planning conference with more than 150 state and local emergency response experts and planners from across the country. Several cities volunteered and ultimately two were selected to participate: Denver--a large metropolitan jurisdiction that received Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Domestic Preparedness Training; and Portsmouth, N.H.--a small jurisdiction that has not received that type of training. Criteria for selection included the cities' varying levels of training in weapons of mass destruction response, their geographical dispersal, and their willingness to participate in the exercise.

The Attorney General and the Director of FEMA will serve as Co-Chairs for the exercise because by law and Presidential Directive both agencies have responsibilities for responding to and managing the consequences of a domestic weapons of mass destruction incident.

Under a Presidential Directive, the Department of Justice, acting through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is the lead federal agency for the crisis management response to a domestic weapons of mass destruction incident due to its investigative and law enforcement role in bringing to justice any terrorists involved in such an incident.

FEMA, acting in accordance with the Stafford Act and as the lead agency for consequence management, will implement the "Federal Response Plan" in support of state and local officials.



For additional information on TOPOFF contact:

  • Doug Johnson, DOJ at 202/353-9051 or pager 888/582-6750 or

  • Gina Talamona, DOJ at 202/616-2777

For information regarding Denver contact:

  • Chris Watney, DOJ 202/616-2777

  • Don Jacks, FEMA 202/646-4600

Local: Sheriff Pat J. Sullivan, Jr. 303/734-5101

  • Tommy Grier, Colorado Office of Emergency Management 303/273-1622

For information regarding Portsmouth contact:

  • Doug Johnson DOJ 202/353-9051 or pager 888/582-6750 or

  • Marc Wolfson FEMA 202/646-4600

Local: Jim Van Dongen, New Hampshire Office of

  • Emergency Management 603/271-2231

For information regarding NCR 2000 contact:

  • Dave Miller FBI 202/324-3691

  • Doug Johnson DOJ 202/353-9051 or pager 888/582-6750 or

  • Marc Wolfson FEMA 202/646-4600

Local: District of Columbia Emergency Management Agency,

  • JoEllen Contee 202/727-6161

  • Prince George's County Fire and EMS, Mark Brady 301/883-5220