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First Responders Participate In Emergency Drill On Subway

Andrew Busch
SEPTA Press Officer

Prepare for the worst, develop a response, and be ready to put it into action.

These are the plans that are put into practice during SEPTA's emergency drills, which test the readiness of SEPTA personnel and other first responders in a variety of scenarios.

The latest drill was conducted on May 19, 2013 along the Broad-Ridge Spur, and simulated a terrorist attack on the subway system.

In this scenario, an explosion occurred on a subway train near the Fairmount Station. The blast came from a bomb that was placed on the train and concealed in a travel bag.

Dozens of "victims" - doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical professionals from the Medical Reserve Corps who volunteered to participate in the drill - were injured and in need of rescue from the train, which was south of the station.

SEPTA, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia Fire Department and various other first responders immediately went into action in a coordinated response.

James Fox, SEPTA's Chief Control Center Officer, said emergency personnel have specific tasks when heading into these types of situations.

"You have to be able to get to and into the train as quickly as possible," Fox said. "You have to be able to get your evacuation procedure up and running, and you also have to set up an area to triage those who are injured."

In addition to tending to the victims, who were walked out of the train and down the tracks to the station area by first responders, the drill focused on how to handle suspicious packages. A number of items - from suitcases to briefcases and everything in between - were placed on the train, and each had to be examined for potential explosives.

Even though most of the action took place out of public view - underground in a dark subway tunnel - Fox said it is important for SEPTA riders and others to know that efforts to keep them safe are ongoing.

"We want the public to know that we are preparing the first responders in a procedure so that they know exactly how they are going to handle this type of situation," Fox said. "This type of training and practice is extremely valuable."

The coordinated response effort will be studied by to determine what worked, and what may need to be improved. The practices of the agencies involved and the skill sets of the individual first responders can then be sharpened and grown to better prepare everyone for a real-life event.

"You never want to see something like this happen," Fox said, "but if there is an incident, we want to be prepared to handle it."

Volunteer "victims" from the Medical Reserve Corps on a subway train before the start of the emergency drill. Suspicious packages were placed throughout the train.

First responders help "victims" make their way from the track area to the platform.

SEPTA personnel work on the coordinated response during the drill.

Police officers follow the subway tracks to the train.

First responders and volunteers gather on Broad Street at the Fairmount Station after the drill.