State to conduct training exercise on agriculture, food protection, and public health, March 3-8


(Socorro, N.M.) — The New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) and the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (NMDHSEM) will join together with other state and local agencies to conduct an exercise focused on agriculture-based emergencies at the Socorro County Fairgrounds in Socorro, March 3-8.

“The time to train for a crisis is before one happens,” said Kelly Hamilton, who co-directs the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center (located at New Mexico State University) and leading the exercise.  “We hope we never have to apply this training in reality, but staying prepared is what helps minimize problems and even save lives when crisis situations really do happen.”

The exercise has been dubbed “Cascading Events”, which in homeland security parlance means events that arise from an initial incident, making that incident all the more difficult to respond to.  Cascading events require not only more responders, but a broader range of expertise.

The exercise will bring together and test the coordination of local first responders, as well as representatives from the private sector, state government, and federal government.  Nearly 200 people will participate in the exercise.

“After the exercise, we’ll review in order to identify the gaps that might exist in prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery,” Hamilton said.

The exercise is being coordinated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Directorate for National Protection and Programs.

“On a national level, New Mexico is often held up as an example of a state that is well prepared for the type of events that could knock out critical infrastructure like roads and communications equipment,” said New Mexico Homeland Security and Emergency Management Secretary Greg Myers. “These types of exercises help prepare responders and emergency managers to perform their best in real life situations.”

Residents near the Socorro Fairgrounds are advised to anticipate increased activity and traffic, including ambulances, in the area March 3-8.  Those with questions or concerns about the exercise may contact Kelly Hamilton at khamilton@nmda.nmsu.edu or at 575-646-3007.