St. Louis Regional Freightway raises awareness, response to complex coordinated terrorist attack

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Representatives from the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the St. Louis Area Regional Response System (STARRS) and the United States Coast Guard joined the St. Louis Regional Freightway in December to raise awareness about preparations for a regional response plan and capstone exercise in the event of a complex coordinated terrorist attack (CCTA) in the bi-state region.

The Freightway’s December Industry Forum focused on CCTA and featured discussions from a panelist on how the region’s “multimodal freight network could be impacted in the event of an attack.” The panelist also discussed the important role that the freight network plays in making sure that the region is prepared for the said attack.

The panelist including Dale Chambers, CCTA grants manager of STARRS; Althea de Guzman, regional program manager of Hagerty Consulting; Nick Gragnani, executive director of STARRS; Matt Taylor, CCTA training coordinator of St. Louis Area Fusion Center and Captain Scott Stoermer, commander of Sector Upper Mississippi River for the U.S. Coast Guard. The panel was led by Mary Lamie, executive director of St. Louis Regional Freightway.

Gragnani spoke about the role of STARRS in terms of coordination, planning and response for “large-scale, critical” incidents within the bi-state region.

“There is now a responsible party out there. Whether it’s through a specialty response team, the urban area search and rescue team, the law enforcement tactical operation team or a team embedded within the hospitals right now,” Gragnani said. “There are response units that can take on mass casualty incidents.”

Guzman serves Hagerty Consulting as the program coordinator for the St. Louis Regional Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attack. She spoke on the region’s multimodal freight infrastructure and how it can play a role in preparing for an attack.

“The whole purpose of the CCTA program is to design and manage planning, training and exercises for the region. We are currently creating operational guides for law enforcement, fire, EMS, command and control and special operation units that include SWAT, bomb and arson,” Guzman said. “We’ll then get to train and exercise them in actual response drills.”

According to Guzman, her team is being proactive in identifying gaps in the region where more collaboration is needed. She said that one gap is along the Mississippi River, which Chambers agreed with.

“The river creates a whole lot of challenges and we are relying on everyone to get engaged,” Chambers said. “That could be by providing meeting space, training opportunities or by opening up barges or boats for training exercises.”

According to the panelist, a way that these challenges are being addressed is through the collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard. Captain Stoermer, who is responsible for “all or parts” of 11 state, including over 2,200 miles of commercially navigable waterways on upper Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers, discussed the coast guard’s tactical resource role with advanced counterterrorism.

“The marine transportation system is a lifeblood for the national economy and, by extension, our national security. The discussion of governance of the marine transportation system is critical because we’re going to double the need for the use of the maritime transportation system in only a few years,” he said.

According to Captain Stoermer, there is a current $4.7 trillion volume of the economy which is pushed through the maritime transportation system. He said it is only getting bigger.

Taylor has been with the St. Louis County Police Department for over 17 years and is currently assigned to the department’s Intelligence Unit, detached to the St. Louis Fusion Center.

“Our priority is [the] preservation of life and everything we do is based on that principle. The biggest way we are able to do this is through our suspicious activity reports,” Taylor said. “If more people know what a fusion center is and the impact of suspicious activity reports, it’s a win for everyone.”

The St. Louis Fusion Center was born out of the 9/11 Commission in order to improve communications and prevent terrorism. The fusion center analyzes and responds to reports of suspicious activity as well as other local, national and global intelligence that is collected or reported.

Lamie reiterated the region’s “vital role” as a national multimodal freight transportation system. She also highlighted the ways in which the St. Louis Regional Freightway would help with the engagement of those within the region’s freight industry and the local users of the freight network.

“We have companies like Nestle Purina and AB In-Bev, trucking companies, six Class I railroads, our ports, airports and pipelines. There’s no other location along the Mississippi River that has the cluster of barge transfer facilities we have here in the St. Louis region,” she said.

Lamie said the St. Louis Regional Freightway will make sure the partners know that the organization wants to work with them and that they need to be part of the initiative.