Superior Shield Area Maritime Security Training and Exercise Program (AMSTEP) Full-Scale Exercise (FSE)

Start Date: 06/16/2021


Superior Shield 2021 was a two-day full-scale exercise (FSE) that was scheduled to be conducted from Wed 6/16/21 to Thu 6/17/21 in Munising, Michigan along the coastline of Lake Superior. The exercise consisted of both command post play and live play at both landside and on-water locations. The purpose of the exercise was to validate the Sault Region Area Maritime Security Plan (AMSP) and local, state and regional plans and procedures in relationship with a transportation security incident in the Sault Region area of responsibility.

The scripted exercise scenario consisted of an active shooter aboard a local pleasure cruise boat on Lake Superior that was carrying 220 passengers plus several crew members. The victims were selected at random by the shooter and the situation was designed to evolve quickly and to be unpredictable. The shooter was not considered to be motivated by terrorist group objectives.

A real-time, stressful environment was then put in motion to closely mirror a real-world event with multiple agencies assessing the security incident as well as other types of contingencies. The first day of the exercise was meant to gauge the local response following notification of the incident with exercise participants immediately establishing a Unified Command/Incident Command, while the second day consisted of the large scale response with an Incident Command Post being activated. Participant roles consisted of Players, Controllers, Evaluators, Coaches and Observers. Exercise plan (EXPLAN) documents were sent via email to HOPE members in advance for pre-reading to familiarize ourselves with the FSE activities.

HOPE AACR was invited to participate in Operation Superior Shield (OSS) along with 26 other agencies that were comprised of federal, state, local and private industry/NGO organizations. Four HOPE canine teams attended the two-day event, along with a HAR/TL and two other HOPE members in the role of observers. The HAR/TL and the observers did not have dogs with them at the drill, which did prove to be beneficial. The canine teams and the HAR/TL were identified as “players” for the duration of the exercise.

The Munising Fire Hall was utilized as the Command Post, while the on-water staging and triage areas were located on the grounds of the Neenah Paper company (approximately 5 minutes apart). HOPE teams were active at the fire hall both days and at the triage area on the second day. HOPE members were exposed to a wide array of human participants, including uniformed/non-uniformed military personnel, first responders, law enforcement officials and civilians, as well as a variety of equipment utilized by emergency management including fire trucks, ambulances, sirens, various maritime vessels and a helicopter. At the fire hall where we had an informal area off to the side in the fire engine bay, HOPE teams casually interacted with participants and frequently did unobtrusive walk-throughs, both inside and outside. There was plenty of down time for the dogs to rest/relax as needed (handlers provided soft crates and mats for their dogs). At the busy on-water triage area (40+ injured and 10 casualties), HOPE teams mainly interacted with the minor-aged “victims” as they finished their role-playing, but were also available for any participants who needed some stress-relief or who just wanted some time with a dog. The victims did have moulage make up applied for their injuries in order to provide more realistic training environment, and none of the dogs had a reaction to the fictitious wounds. Teams were rotated in pairs through both sites in order to allow them to experience as much of the exercise as possible.

As a team, we made the decision to arrive both days at the fire hall before registration opened for the exercise in order to welcome the participants before they started in their roles for the day, to ensure that our presence was known and to assure people that would be onsite for comfort and stress-relief. We had many opportunities throughout the two days to explain what HOPE AACR does and we successfully won over many people (including some from national locations) who “had no idea that canine teams were available for this purpose” and would be sure to ask for HOPE teams to be incorporated in future drills and other events. Following the End of Exercise, HOPE teams were positively singled-out during the Player Hotwash all-participant debriefing with and were acknowledged for helping keep stress levels down throughout the drill.

It should be noted that while onsite, Nick, Keena and Connie had a very productive conversation with several people who will be running the Straits Shield Active Shooter Drill set for 9/21/21 - 9/24/21 in St. Ignace, MI in regards to where HOPE teams should be slotted in the ICS structure. During OSS, HOPE teams where attached to the Liaison Officer due to our “volunteer” status. Going forward, because we are an invited agency (rather than traditional or spontaneous volunteers), we may possibly be more appropriately placed in the Resource Unit (within the Planning Section) and would be considered to be “assigned tactical resources and personnel.”

Many thanks to Keena Jones who is local to the Munising area for putting together an extensive informational list for use during our stay for OSS and for making us all feel very welcome while in Munising.

Agency: USCG Sector Sault Ste. Marie

Becky Engelter & Ella, Bob Starr & Oliver, Karen Alvord & Charles, Shay Jacobson & Tazer, Nick Meier (observer), Keena Jones (observer)