WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- Nearly 80 first responders from federal, state and local agencies conducted an annual HAZMAT exercise here April 17.

The exercise simulates real world situations first responders encounter during emergencies and are designed to build familiarity and enhance coordination and response between the arsenal and community agencies.

"These exercises allow us to work with our community partners, gain familiarity with how each department works and build a set of common skills that helps us do a better job when working together in the future," said John Whipple, Watervliet Arsenal fire chief. "When incidents like these occur in the local community we all respond to help and support each other."

The daylong exercise drew first responders from agencies in four counties, New York State Fire, and Watervliet Arsenal. The multiple agencies routinely combine efforts to tackle real world emergencies and this training strengthens future response efforts. It is extremely important at a major event for the responders to be familiar with each other and to have trained together according to Ray Davis, Rensselaer County HAZMAT coordinator.

This is the 13th year the arsenal has hosted this community wide HAZMAT training exercise. Watervliet Arsenal maintains mutual aid agreements with local fire and rescue first responders and responded to 161 fire and emergency calls in the local community last year.

Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest continuously active arsenal in the United States, having begun operations during the War of 1812. It celebrated its 200th anniversary on July 14, 2013. Today's arsenal is relied upon by the U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannons, howitzers and mortar systems.