LANDOVER, Md. (AP) - A mock terrorist armed with a bomb tested
the wits of emergency personnel during a disaster drill Wednesday
in a replica of a Metrorail subway tunnel.
The drill - scheduled before the federal terror alert level was
raised to Code Orange - involved District of Columbia firefighters
who were not told terrorism would be involved.
"When they tried to rescue the people, they realized that one
of them was a terrorist with a bomb on him," said Charles Novick,
Metro's fire and life safety liaison.
The exercise was one of dozens held in the past 12 months since
Metro opened a 260 foot-long, single track subway tunnel
constructed inside a warehouse. The $700,000 training facility was
the first of its kind in the nation.
"We've trained with bomb sniffing dogs, we've done
evidence-collecting classes here, we've also done situations with
SWAT teams as well," said Novick.
About 750 public safety personnel have used the facility since
it opened.
In addition to departments from Maryland, Virginia and D.C.,
where portions of the Metrorail system are underground, federal law
enforcement personnel have also conducted exercises in the mock
tunnel.
The 13 firefighters and emergency medical technicians who took
part in Wednesday's exercise crept through simulated smoke inside
two darkened railcars. They also came across small simulated fires
created with fabric and lights.
Before they could approach the cars, they practiced the steps
they would take to make sure electricity to the system's
potentially deadly electrified third rail was turned off. They also
used sensing equipment to test the air quality around the cars.
"The more we're aware of the Metro's surroundings and
facilities, it'll help us to take on the challenges that we may be
faced with," said Lt. Steve J. Fennell, a Washington firefighter.
Before the training facility opened, similar exercises were
conducted during early morning hours when the train system was
closed.
"The non-revenue hours that we had access to were very short,"
said Fennell.
About 70 percent of the district's 1,400 firefighters,
paramedics and emergency medical technicians have trained within
the subway system.
Fennell expects all remaining personnel to complete the training
during the month the new facility is reserved for the department's
use.
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On the Net:
Metro: http://www.wmata.com
DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services:
http://fems.dc.gov/main.shtm


(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)