In 1997 Major General Allen E. Tackett, former adjutant general of West Virginia, envisioned turning this abandoned highway tunnel into a range for military and civilian first responders to train. The U.S. Congress, recognizing the need for additional WMD training, required the Department of Defense to "establish a cost-effective CM/CT facility for military first responders and concurrent testing of response apparatus and equipment at the Memorial Tunnel facility." In 1999, the Department of Defense Consequence Management Program Integration Office initiated planning and development of a training center in the more than 79,000 square feet of the two-lane, 2,800-foot-long highway tunnel to train local, state, federal and military response units.
In May 2000, a 5-phase project began to convert the Memorial Tunnel into the Center for National Response (CNR), an exercise facility for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) consequence management (CM) and counterterrorism (CT). Sets were constructed within the tunnel, including a post-blast rubble area, a subway station, illicit drug laboratories, a confined space training area, and a highway incident scene.
Today, the Center for National Response is managed by the West Virginia National Guard as an element of the Joint Interagency Training and Education Center. The tunnel is ideal for consequence and crisis management emergency response training and provides a realistic environment where emergency response teams can readily practice techniques designed to mitigate the effects of a WMD incident in an underground highway, train or subway tunnel. Additionally, the tunnel provides an excellent base for simulated agent testing; illicit chemical, biological or drug laboratory entry and containment; EOD operations; underground search and rescue; counter terrorist tactics; and hostage rescue training.
Often called the Disneyland for first responders, the Center of National Response Memorial Tunnel is a training venue that offers a realistic disaster setting equipped with subway cars and station and a myriad of conditions including daylight, darkness, wind, flames, smoke and other emergency challenges. The CNR site has more than 10,000 acres of semi-wilderness area that includes a simulated meth lab and two rusty single-engine planes used for crash scenario training.
The Center for National Response (CNR) is uniquely suited as a multipurpose exercise facility. This facility is designed to meet a wide range of weapons of mass destruction consequence management and counterterrorism requirements for the Department of Defense, federal, state and local organizations. The tunnel's physical configuration enhances experience at the individual, unit and multi-organization/agency level. It serves as a valuable asset in preparing both military and civilian response teams to meet future threats and challenges. The tunnel has had a wide range of participants from the US Army Chemical Battalions, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard Civil Support Commands to firemen, police officers, EMTs, mass transit police and healthcare professionals. They have trained under different scenarios including highway accidents, HAZMAT incidents, earthquakes, terrorist bombings and train derailments.
The tunnel is ideal for consequence and crisis management emergency response exercises and provides a realistic environment where emergency response teams can readily practice their techniques in mitigating the effects of an IED and hazmat incident. Project managers at the Memorial Tunnel site include former military, nuclear, biological and chemical experts. The vast base of knowledge provided by these subject matter experts who will help develop, coordinate and facilitate a unique exercise for its participating students. Along with the mock train platform and train, the tunnel also contains a highway pileup, drug labs, a rubble room and a plaster cave built to resemble the mountain hide-outs in Afghanistan.
Courses Provide In-Depth Training
Both the "Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Response on Mass Transit and Passenger Rail Systems" and "A WMD Event: Freight Rail Hazardous Materials Incident Response Involving Mass Transit and Passenger Rail Systems" course is designed to provide an environment and venue for first responders and mass transit police to perform operationally and tactically in a scenario-driven exercise under realistic incident conditions involving the employment of an IED and Hazmat on a mass transit or passenger rail system. Scenarios are based on the most current threat assessment available for mass transit and passenger rail systems. Real "actors" will play the part of the injured and "dead" passengers to add a sense of reality to the training and participants will be issued safety gear and equipment and will only need to bring steel-toed boots and work gloves to the training.