First responders join military for ‘worst case scenario’ training in Philly this week

Area first responders and the military will join forces this week to run a disaster preparedness exercise in South Philadelphia.

People lift up a tent

A disaster preparedness exercise takes place in California. (U.S. Army/Master Sgt. Helen Miller)

The military is joining forces this week with area first responders to run a preparedness exercise in Philadelphia.

Army Col. Chris McKinney, chief of staff for Task Force 46, said Philadelphia offers a perfect urban environment to prepare for anything from a nuclear attack to chemical warfare. That’s exactly what will be simulated during the four days of exercises replicating a mass casualty event beginning Tuesday.

“We’re over at the Navy Yard where we’ll be replicating a mass casualty decontamination location, and that could be for any type of particular chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, should any of those unfortunate instances ever occur.”

McKinney adds that the Fire Academy in Northeast Philadelphia will also see military aircraft rehearsing how to respond to a mass casualty situation.

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“We’ve got our urban search and rescue folks working through the burned buildings, working through the rubble piles that are out there, conducting hoist operations with our aviation elements. And they’ll be going through replicating all of those unique disciplines that would be derivative of a collapsed structure.”

It won’t just be members of the Philadelphia police and fire departments joining the military — first responders from throughout the country will also be in town for the event.

“We also have a lot of other fire departments and folks that we’ve worked with in the past coming to support Philadelphia from Nashville, Detroit, FDNY, Boston FD, and the Hyannisport Fire Department,” McKinney said. “A lot of potential mutual aid that might have to come in here with their own urban search and rescue teams are also coming.”

The sports complex stop on SEPTA’s Broad Street Line will also be used for underground rescue drills. Five local hospitals will participate, taking mock patients in for treatment.

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People might see an enhanced military presence in spots in the form of heavy trucks and helicopters. They also could see dummies used for training as they are unloaded at one of the area hospitals participating in the drill.

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