Special equipment brought in for Exercise Silver 

ISU training, testing information sharing among various security agencies

Helicopters, cameras and a Bison are some of the special equipment being tested in the corridor by the Integrated Security Unit as it carries out Exercise Silver this week, in preparation for the 2010 Olympics.

The ISU, a joint effort between the RCMP, the Canadian Forces and other agencies to provide security during the 2010 Games, is holding Exercise Silver from Feb. 9 to 13 in the Vancouver, Whistler and Pemberton areas as the second stage of its Olympic preparations.

Cpl. Jen Allen, a spokeswoman for the ISU, wouldn't give many details about the training last week, but she did say that Sea to Sky residents could expect an increased air presence in the corridor.

"There will be some operational exercises in the Whistler region and the Pemberton region," she said. "We're not detailing those in order to maintain the integrity of the operations and the integrity of the participants."

A news release from the ISU calls silver training a "milestone exercise" in preparations for security during the Olympic Winter Games. Much of it, the release says, is focused on sharing information between government and non-government agencies, training that will be "out of the public eye."

Other parts of the exercise will provide "hands-on experience" for safety and security personnel. Some of that experience has already taken place. ISU coordinated voluntary vehicle screening at Whistler's day skier lots between Jan. 28 and 30.

"We are less than one year away from becoming operational," Bud Mercer, RCMP Assistant Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer for ISU, said in the news release.

"These shared exercises help develop and validate capabilities arising from the co-operative efforts and interoperability of various agencies and government departments from all levels."

Mercer said in an interview with Pique last week that last year's bronze exercise was focused on security planning and involved a tabletop exercise. That's a session that often sees personnel drawing out scenarios using maps and other instruments.

The Pemberton Airport was a venue for that exercise in November, with over 500 participants and 70 agencies taking part. It was likely the biggest exercise of its type that Canada has ever had, according to Mercer.

Exercise Gold, the final ISU preparation exercise, is planned for next fall.

Major Dan Thomas, a spokesman with the ISU, said in an interview that Pemberton residents could see a Bison vehicle trawling down their streets this week. Normally used in infantry transportation, it's an eight-by-eight wheeled armoured vehicle that will be used for communication purposes.

As pertains Olympic security during the Games, Mercer said that ISU will be using the "very best of what is available." That includes a Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS), which can include motion sensors mounted atop physical barriers, as well as closed circuit television cameras.

"The list would be too long to go into but everything that is available with the realm of security when it comes to IT security is being used," he said in the interview. "Where the venues are, every security apparatus is tailor-made so it is not a one size fits all."

Closed-circuit cameras have been a sticking point for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. Micheal Vonn, policy director for the BCCLA, said the organization understands that there's a heightened security environment around the Olympics, but she worries that things like security cameras could become a legacy after the Games.

"There's a certain degree of intrusion that is justified and a certain degree that is not justified," she said. "Cameras are probably within the bounds for the perimeter. The question is, do they then become what we inherit?

"This has been the case in other Olympics."

Mercer also said in his interview with Pique that RCMP officers have had their annual leave suspended during the Games and that visitors to the Olympic region could see police in various uniforms from across the country, among them those of the Toronto Police Department, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Surete du Quebec.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has estimated the budget for Olympic security could be "at least $1 billion" - up from an initial figure of $175 million.

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