Nearly two dozen South Florida law enforcement agencies joined together Saturday in a daylong drill that simulated a gunman shooting at the Coast Guard base on Miami Beach, an attack at Marlins Park and suspected terror activity at Miami International Airport.
Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said while individual agencies routinely conduct these kinds of drills, Saturday’s was the first of its kind that systematically engaged law enforcement entities across South Florida. It was dubbed Operation Heat Shield.
Among those watching the series of scenarios was Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson who said federal funds contributed to the exercise modeled after one carried out in Northern California.
At the Coast Guard base on the MacArthur Causeway, Johnson stood before the Cutter Bernard Webber — named for a Guardsman’s valor captured in the current Hollywood film “The Finest Hours” — and told reporters the public should know about the fake “active shooter” drill by South Florida law enforcement. “It’s important that we highlight for the American public what we are doing overtime to protect the homeland,” he said.
The exercise itself was off limits to press coverage but local law enforcement issued a series of alerts through social media and elsewhere warning the public to not be surprise if they saw or heard unusual activity.
Johnson called federal and local collaboration necessary “given the evolution of the global terrorist threat, which involves terrorist-inspired factions in addition to terrorist-directed actions, many of which involve the home-born, the so-called lone-wolf actor who could strike at any moment, anywhere.”
A Miami-Dade Police Department fact sheet said the goal of the exercise was “to reduce the vulnerability of the state and the county to disasters, both natural and man-made.” It was held under the umbrella of the Southeast Regional Domestic Security Task Force.
The exercise also used about 300 civilian volunteers from local faith-based groups, the health sector, and various police and fire explorer posts to serve as “hostages and victims.”
Separately, in reply to a question, the Homeland Security secretary said the nation’s law enforcement agencies were ready to secure Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 game. Some 50 federal, state and local agencies were coordinating security at the game, he said, from the air to the sea to cyber security as well as on the watch for counterfeit merchandise.
“There’s a lot of effort going into preparation,” Johnson said, adding he visited Levi’s Stadium in the San Francisco Bay Area this week.
Agencies that took part included:
Aventura Police Department; Broward Sheriff’s Office; Coral Gables Police Department; Department of Homeland Security; Florida Department of Health; Florida Department of Law Enforcement; Fort Lauderdale Police Department; Miami Beach Fire Rescue; Miami Beach Police Department; Miami Fire Rescue; Miami Police Department; Miami-Dade Aviation Department; Miami-Dade Fire Rescue; Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Office of Emergency Management; Miami-Dade Police Department; North Miami Beach Police Department; Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office; Pembroke Pines Police Department; South Florida Fusion Center; South Florida Regional Planning Councils; the U.S. Coast Guard and West Palm Beach Police Department.