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Published: Monday, October 29, 2012, 3:33 p.m.

Police train for protecting ferries from terrorists

  • A King County Sheriff's boat sails with U.S. Coast Guard boats as they follow the Washington State ferry M.V. Salish during a drill aboard the ship Mo...

    Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

    A King County Sheriff's boat sails with U.S. Coast Guard boats as they follow the Washington State ferry M.V. Salish during a drill aboard the ship Monday. In winds that kicked up whitecaps and drenched the small boarding boats, the U.S. Coast Guard and several police agencies drilled for a potential terrorist attack on a state ferry by sending SWAT teams aboard the ferry while under sail on Puget Sound between Vashon Island and Everett. In addition to the Coast Guard, the drill involved Washington State Patrol troopers, King County sheriff's deputies and Seattle police.

  • During a drill, SWAT team members step over a downed "terrorist" while clearing the ship aboard the Washington State ferry M.V. Salish on Monday.

    Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

    During a drill, SWAT team members step over a downed "terrorist" while clearing the ship aboard the Washington State ferry M.V. Salish on Monday.

  • A U.S. Coast Guard boat kicks up a spray of sea water as it approaches the Washington State ferry M.V. Salish during a drill on Monday.

    Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

    A U.S. Coast Guard boat kicks up a spray of sea water as it approaches the Washington State ferry M.V. Salish during a drill on Monday.

  • During a drill, a SWAT team member secures part of a passenger deck aboard the Washington State ferry M.V. Salish on Monday.

    Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

    During a drill, a SWAT team member secures part of a passenger deck aboard the Washington State ferry M.V. Salish on Monday.

  • During a drill, SWAT team members prepare to clear the ship Monday moments after boarding the ferry M.V. Salish on Monday.

    Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

    During a drill, SWAT team members prepare to clear the ship Monday moments after boarding the ferry M.V. Salish on Monday.

  • During a drill Monday, small boats follow in the wake of the M.V. Salish as a King County Sheriff helicopter flies overhead near Whidbey Island.

    Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

    During a drill Monday, small boats follow in the wake of the M.V. Salish as a King County Sheriff helicopter flies overhead near Whidbey Island.

SEATTLE -- If terrorists were to seize a Washington state ferry, police agencies are prepared to board the vessel on Puget Sound with SWAT teams roping down from helicopters and jumping aboard from moving Coast Guard boats.
They trained for that scenario Monday, although 25 mph winds forced them to cancel the helicopter descent. But officers boarded the ferry Salish in seasickness-inducing swells that washed over the smaller police boats, King County sheriff's Sgt. Katie Larson said.
"It's dangerous," Larson said. "We've got to practice in the good and the bad weather, and at some point you have to weigh the risks," she said about canceling the helicopter drop.
The all-day training exercise, six months in the planning, involved up to 100 people from the Coast Guard, Washington State Patrol, King County sheriff's office and Seattle police in the waters between Vashon Island and Everett.
Two helicopters circled the ferry for a time as it was overtaken by two smaller Coast Guard boats, a sheriff's boat and police boats from Seattle and Bainbridge Island.
Despite the impressive show of force, the most important part of the drill is the cooperation and communication among agencies, Coast Guard spokesman Robert Lanier said.
"So we're all working on the same page if something were to happen," he said.
Officials have no reason to suspect the green and white ferries that ply their routes across the sound are targets, but they've received special protection since 9-11. The Washington State Patrol checks cars with bomb-sniffing dogs. The Coast Guard often escorts ferries with fast-moving 25-foot armed boats.
"I don't want to say it is a target, but we have to consider all threats, and this could be a threat," Lanier said.
Washington state operates the largest ferry system in the United States with 22 vessels on 10 routes, according to the state Transportation Department.
In another terrorism drill Sunday in Seattle, emergency fire and police responders from King, Pierce and Snohomish counties conducted a scenario of sarin gas being released on an Amtrak passenger train, said Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore. Sarin gas is toxic and attacks the nerves.
Responders had to chase down suspects and decontaminate victims. They even had to figure out how they would decontaminate a suspect in handcuffs.
"If we had an event like this, it's going to involve multiple agencies," using different radio frequencies and procedures Moore said. "We wanted to test a unified command and working together," he said.




Story tags » PoliceFerries

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