NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 5, 2019) – First responders worked through a security scenario at J. Percy Priest Dam today to open communication channels and facilitate awareness of possible threats to infrastructure operated and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District.
Representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Nashville, Tennessee Department of Homeland Security, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Metro Nashville Police and Fire Departments participated.
Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Nashville District commander, welcomed everyone for the event dubbed “First Responders Day,” and said the Corps of Engineers is responsible for securing the nation’s infrastructure, which includes 10 multipurpose projects within the Cumberland River Basin.
“It is imperative that we maintain this infrastructure through perpetuity and do so working with local first responders so that in the event of a worst-case scenario we can effectively work together to re-secure a project site,” Jones said.
J. Percy Priest Dam on the Stones River provides flood risk reduction, hydropower and water supply, but few people remember the project actually survived a bombing in November 1978 that ripped several iron doors from the dam.
The participants worked through a similar scenario, allowing them to become familiar with each other’s capabilities and the likely timeline that each agency would respond. The local, state and federal first responders also toured the dam and powerhouse to put eyes on the project for awareness of potential hazards and to ask facility managers questions about issues they could encounter.
Tommy Mason, J. Percy Priest Lake resource manager, provided an overview of the recreation facilities at the lake, and Jay Klinger, Nashville District Security Office chief, addressed the importance of “knowing each other’s capabilities and how we can complement each other in response to an incident.”
Jerry Breznican, Nashville District Emergency Management chief, also highlighted how the district manages and operates Emergency Command and Control Vehicles that can be utilized when available during an emergency response.
The discussions and tour of the facility helped first responders be familiar with the layout of the project and to coordinate on how they can best deter bad actors and protect the project.
Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Meghann Rusbarsky, FBI Memphis Field Office – Nashville Resident Agency, said it’s important to build relationships before a critical incident, and exercises like this make it possible to understand each agency’s capabilities and authorities, and to know the command and control structure when an incident happens.
“So it’s helpful to know for planning how the event is going to transpire and who is going to take control. We also have to know what our resources are,” Rusbarsky said.
From a local perspective, Metro Nashville Police Sgt. Paul Harbin said understanding who the main players are and establishing contacts is the best takeaway from the exercise. He said the dam tour familiarized him with the footprint of the facility, which helps with accessing it and safely maneuvering around.
“So if we do have an incident we’ve already been there and we know where to go,” Harbin said.
Jones said “First Responders Day” provided a forum where participants could focus on early intervention, communication and coordination. It’s an investment in the security of the projects that are operated and maintained by the Nashville District, he stressed.
“These partnerships help us keep them secure,” Jones said.
News and information regarding flooding impacts to Nashville District recreation areas will be made available on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.