WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- The Arsenal, with the support of community first responders from four local counties, conducted a hazardous material training exercise here, April 19.

This exercise was extremely important to the Arsenal because the Arsenal answers hundreds of mutual aid calls every year, said John Whipple, the Arsenal Fire Chief. And, in each community exercise, new skills are learned, while new relationships are developed.

"The walls and barriers to effective communication and response are lowered each year that we do these community-wide exercises," Whipple said. "We know that if we ever come to a situation where we need support, we would call on these first responders who have trained with us today."

Until nine years ago, the Arsenal conducted emergency response exercises with only internal assets and personnel. But through the years, the Arsenal has expanded its reach into community first responder assets to better protect the Arsenal and the community.

"We know that we cannot stand alone in reacting to a real-world, large-scale incident involving intentional or unintentional acts of nuclear, biological, radiological, or chemical agents," Whipple said. "Therefore, it is critical that we collectively train with our community first response teams and develop relationships prior to an emergency."

Nearly 100 first responders from Saratoga, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Albany counties, as well as experts from New York State Department of Homeland Security and Fire Prevention and Control, supported the exercise.

Exercise participants trained to better react to various simulated hazardous material leaks, from sulfur dioxide to chlorine. The various incidents required the use of WMD detection and decontamination equipment and techniques.

Whipple said that in the future he would like to expand training to respond to large-scale propane fires.

The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States. It began operations during the War of 1812, and celebrated its 200th year of continuous service to the nation on July 14, 2013.

Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $90 million.