Disaster Preparedness & Recovery

Full-Scale Exercise Prepares, Tests Alabama Responders

The Montgomery Department of Public Safety simulates a smaller version of the Boston Marathon bombing to assure emergency preparedness.

The Montgomery, Ala., Department of Public Safety held several full-scale emergency scenarios at various downtown venues on Feb. 21.

Though the department organizes practice events for police, firefighters and other emergency responders regularly, the exercise Friday, Operation Murphy, played out on a very large scale, according to Director Chris Murphy.

His hope is to prepare officers and commanders alike in case of a long-term emergency.

"It's a test for our first responders, but I want to test the chiefs and the command staff as well. Can they delegate responsibility when I tell them to go home and rest after 22 hours?" Murphy said.

"That's one thing officials learned from the Boston bombing. You cannot operate at your best without sufficient rest, as much as we'd like to think that we're Superman," he added.

A "bomb explosion" inside Riverwalk Stadium was the first scenario of the day at 9 a.m.

"It's not dangerous, just a very loud noise," explained Martha Earnhardt, spokeswoman for the Montgomery Department of Public Safety.

The scenario was used to simulate a smaller version of the Boston Marathon bombing, in which an explosive was placed inside a backpack.

Alabama State University theater students played the part of runners just finishing a fun run when the bomb went off at the finish line.

Complete with makeup blood and burns over his face, arms and legs, ASU freshman Dashawn Blow played an injured victim.

"I'm having fun," Blow said. "I think we all did a good job. It was way more realistic than I thought it would be. I wasn't expecting the bomb to be that loud, but I think everyone's reactions were great."

The goal of such exercises is to assure emergency preparedness, Earnhardt said.

"Exercising is an important component of emergency preparedness and response," Earnhardt said. "The event today is designed to provide a learning environment to exercise emergency response plans, policies and procedures."

Fire medics were the first at the scene, checking vital signs of those injured.

As other uninjured actors began leaving the stadium, they were corralled by police, their backpacks confiscated.

"Good! That's exactly what they're supposed to do," Earnhardt said. "They may have information, evidence or video recordings of the event that may prove helpful in the investigation."

Just before noon another "explosion" caused part of a building to collapse at Patterson Field, trapping victims under debris.

Later that day, a "terrorist" suspect entered Paterson Academy of Creative Education School and took several workers hostage and injured others.

The Director's Crisis Center also was activated, where chiefs and directors of different departments shared information in order to manage the emergency situations throughout the day.

The exercises were planned through the Montgomery City and County Emergency Management Agency.

Participants included the Montgomery Police Department, Montgomery Fire and Rescue, Emergency Communications, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Capitol Police and others.

(c)2014 the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.)
 

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