By Rick Pfeiffer
Don't be alarmed by those helicopters overhead and the heavy presence of security personnel at the Rainbow Bridge this morning.
The activity is part of security drill being conducted by customs and border officials from both the United States and Canada.
During the exercise, which is expected to continue at least through noon, traffic headed for the bridge on the American side will be diverted to the Peace Bridge and the Lewiston Queenston Bridge.
The drill started at around 8 a.m. with border security personnel being alerted to a mock report of a van making a suspicious stop on the Rainbow Bridge while it attempted to cross over to the American side. As part of the training exercise, border and customs personnel were told two people exited the van during the stop, leaving behind a backpack on the bridge. Under the mock scenario, an explosion was reported on the bridge shortly thereafter.
At this point in the drill, U.S. Customs officials are practicing as if they have detained for questioning the two suspects as they attempted to cross the border into America.
Niagara Falls police and firefighters are on standby as part of the drill. Helicopters and personnel from the Erie and Niagara county sheriff's departments are also participating.
The bridge remains shut down and will reopen to traffic once the exercise has been completed, officials said.