KEYE-TV - Search Results
Urban Shield Tests First Responders Terrorism, Emergency Readiness
Hundreds of first responders from across the region and the country had their readiness tested with a series of terrorism and emergency preparedness drills known as Urban Shield, the first of its kind in Texas.
The bioterrorism drill at Travis County Expo Center on Saturday afternoon was one of more than a dozen this weekend. The grounds inside and outside the center looked like the aftermath of a terrorist attack: a scenario that involved a bomb inside the Expo Center, a chemical agent released, a race against time to save as many lives as possible.
"I think we're in a lot better shape today just because of going through exercises like this,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Bodisch, Commander of the Texas Maritime Regiment.
While the bioterrorism scenario was just a drill, the response, say emergency officials, was as real as they could make it, all the way down to the realistic-looking “injuries” on the more than 300 volunteer “victims”, and the decontamination procedures.
“The surprise element in a training environment is very important for us," said Lisa Block of Travis County Emergency Services. "We have actors, actresses here doing different things that weren't necessarily planned.”
"Where there's a lot of chaos, you have to quickly take control of that chaos so that you can save lives," said Brig. Gen. Bodisch.
Dealing with the unknown was one of several challenges, and benefits, first responders say Saturday’s drill gave them.
"The real down-in-the-weeds-type stuff is the stuff we're trying to drill down to make sure in a real event like this, we've got those bases covered," said Brig. Gen. Bodisch,
When asked what shortcomings the drills revealed, Lisa Block of Travis County said, "You can always improve response time,” and added, "Some areas that we've seen that need to be improved, just communication."
It’s hard enough, Block says, to get hundreds of responders on scene. You then have to figure out how to get everyone up to speed and figure out who helps whom and how, all the while, every crucial second ticks away.
"Biggest challenge is communication,” agreed Brig. Gen. Bodisch. “Everyone has their own radio systems."
Figuring out a plan to get the military, state, and local systems all under one umbrella, a key part of Saturday’s drill, while still figuring out how to best get those victims to several area hospitals.
"We learned ways not to accidentally expose the staff and to decontaminate patients,” said T.J. Milling, an emergency physician at UMC Brackenridge, one of the area hospitals taking part in the drill.
Overall, emergency officials said they were pleased with the level of preparedness.
"I think we're well prepared,” said Brig. Gen. Bodisch. “I've been very impressed."
Officials told me the real eye-opener comes once the drills wrap up. Each agency will talk amongst themselves about what they can do better, then share those findings with the other agencies taking part.
Saturday’s biohazard mass casualty drill was one of several across the area, which included active shooter drills. The Urban Shield runs through early Sunday afternoon. It was paid for with federal grants.
By Adam Bennett