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'Operation Heat Shield III' Designed To Keep South Florida Residents Safe, Informed In Case Of Terror Attack

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- South Florida law enforcement, emergency personnel, and other government agencies carried out simultaneous training exercises Wednesday, designed to keep the community safe and informed in case of a terror attack.

Authorities are calling it 'Operation Heat Shield III.'

Organizers say, "The drills will offer regional first responders a series of unique and realistic drills designed around real-world scenarios that test unified command capabilities."

The full-scale exercise kicked off late Wednesday afternoon and covered three counties, with training taking place at Port Miami, Port Everglades, and Port of Palm Beach.

The drills were to be held at 19 venues throughout South Florida, supported by thousands of participants and volunteers.

More than 1700 first responders were involved across three counties, according to Captain Gina Dominguez, the exercise director for the operation.

Organizers said, "This is the region's first significant exercise series to focus on the multidisciplinary command and control capabilities of municipal specialty teams."

The goal of the operation, according to organizers is:

"To help reduce the region's vulnerability to a complex coordinated terrorist attack and further the ability of county and local partners to implement training programs and initiatives designed to improve terrorism response capabilities. The partnership and participation in Operation Heat Shield III ensures that we are better prepared to mitigate, respond to, and recover from a terrorist attack."

Training scenarios include everything from active shooters to acts of terrorism and other mass casualty situations.

Pete Gomez, an assistant fire chief with the City of Miami, said the recent attack in Sri Lanka was a factor in the planning for the training.

"A complex coordinated terrorist attack [with] multiple attacks, multiple locations," said Gomez. "Required all first responders. All hands on deck. We're dealing with today's terrorism war."

CBS4 News tagged along for a simulation training exercise at Port Miami.

It included a mass shooting training, how to disarm a sniper, and how to rescue an officer who has been shot in the back and in the water.

Authorities are urging the public not to be alarmed, as increased emergency personnel will be seen at all tri-county area locations, including:

The Miami Police College located at 350 N.W. 2 Avenue, Miami, and Temple Israel of Greater Miami located at 137 N.E. 19 Street, Miami, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"I'm really proud to have [first responders] doing this drill. Security is of great concern to the Jewish community," said Scott Brockman, executive director of the Temple Israel of Greater Miami.

Brockman adds security has been a big concern especially with the recent synagogue shootings in Southern California, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh.

Organizers also said that in order to educate the public of the importance of social media during real-life emergencies, Twitter would be used throughout the exercise.

All Twitter updates during the exercise will be accompanied by a disclaimer emphasizing that it is only a TRAINING EXERCISE, authorities said.

In case of a real emergency situation, authorities plan to keep the public informed through Twitter.

Captain Dominguez adds that Operation Heat Shield III is focused on municipal partners like Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Hialeah and Sweetwater. The first 2 phases of the operations were focused on their primary and secondary partners such as Miami-Dade and Fort Lauderdale.

The operation is funded by a $850,000 grant, according to organizers.

Captain Dominguez said the area is one of the few in the county to get the federal funding and she thinks it's because they applied as an entire region, and not just one agency.

"When everybody's running away from something dangerous, we're running toward it," said Captain Dominguez. "So it's really important that we are able to train together and work together to accomplish the mission."


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