PORTAGE | The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor served Wednesday as the backdrop for an Indiana Department of Homeland Security District 1 Task Force first responder drill called “Operation Safe Harbor."
One hundred law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, support staff and consultants from Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper and Newton counties participated in the daylong air, water and land assault on four men using the port to hide hazardous weapons-grade materials.
Practiced three times, the drill tested the readiness of law enforcement for a potential attack on Northwest Indiana through the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, said Munster Police Chief Steve Scheckel, law enforcement group leader for the IDHS District 1 Task Force.
Helicopters and boats from the Lake County Sheriff’s Department provided air and water transportation for first responders, who used simulated ammunition.
“We are training law enforcement in CBRNE — chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives,” said Scheckel, noting the four response teams wore Tyvek suits and gas masks.
According to the scenario, four subjects wearing gas masks are observed unloading barrels into an abandoned shed at the port. After port security comes under fire when they investigate, the Portage Police Department SWAT team and snipers arrive to secure the scene, followed by IDHS District 1 teams.
Lori Postma, emergency preparedness coordinator for Franciscan Alliance, organized the incident action plan with the help of District 1 volunteers and consultants.
“This is a police action. Everybody needs to be vigilant. If you see something dangerous, say something. We’re not here to get hurt,” Postma told commanders during a briefing before the drill.
“Hopefully we will join. This is a great resource for us and a great resource and asset for the region,” said Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance who observed the action. “I’m very impressed with what I saw today.”