'Tabletop' terror a huge test

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is looking for a company to help put its active shooter/terrorism response plans to the test.

The agency issued a request for proposals for firms to conduct a multi-media “tabletop” active shooter exercise for senior MCCA officials and a simulated active shooter exercise at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center.

“We recognize, being an authority and being such a large venue, we have a responsibility to protect people who come here,” said Adam Elias, MCCA director of public safety. “You see what’s happening around the world and, recognizing the vulnerabilities of a large public venue such as ours, we wanted to take this opportunity to test our planning and ... expand upon on our existing partnerships on the local, state and federal level.”

The MCCA developed its active shooter response plan in 2013 and continues to refine it, incorporating technology such as mass notification systems and training staff to be aware of suspicious behavior, said Rob Noonan, the MCCA’s chief information security officer.

The tabletop exercise must include “vivid scenarios” to stimulate discussions on how multiple agencies would respond to a hypothetical terrorist attack at the Hynes. The other exercise must simulate an emergency in the “most realistic manner possible,” with moving people and equipment, to challenge a multi-agency, regional response and look for holes in the MCCA’s plan. The winning bidder would write a “quick-look, after-action report” following the simulation.

The winning bidder also must incorporate lessons learned from the exercises into a template plan for active shooter prevention, response and recovery that the MCCA can use across its properties — which include the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and Springfield’s MassMutual Center — and share with other large public venues such as Fenway Park and TD Garden.

Collaboration with public and private sector partners was a key part of the MCCA’s successful application for a $100,000 federal grant to fund the exercises, Noonan said. The MCCA will work with the city’s emergency management, police, fire and emergency medical services departments, state police and other agencies, and private-sector partners in the Back Bay, including the Sheraton Boston Hotel and Prudential Center, which are connected to the Hynes.

“Any incident would directly impact any of these surrounding players,” Elias said. “It’s important for all of us to be on the same page when discussing plans and responding to and recovering from any specific incident in the city.”