Mass. First Responders Practice Massive Hazmat Incident Response
Oct. 12—BROCKTON—Anyone passing by Campanelli Stadium on Tuesday afternoon might have thought the place was under attack, with first responders in bulky protective hazardous materials suits filing in and out.
And that's exactly what the men and women in those suits were supposed to be thinking, too.
Public safety agencies from across the region gathered at the stadium for a massive hazmat incident response exercise that was months in the making, according to Brockton Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Galligan.
The training was designed to simulate a chemical attack on a crowded stadium during a concert, sporting event or rally, he said.
Such incidents have become more common over the last few years, which have seen bombings at arenas in Paris, France and Manchester, England, and, mostly recently, the worst public shooting in the nation's history at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nev.
"This was a regular training day for the state Hazardous Materials Response Team, but we invited the Brockton Fire Department, the police department, Brockton emergency medical services, the state police bomb squad, Brockton Emergency Management, and the National Guard to participate," Galligan said.
Fifty members of the Brockton High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps also participated, taking on the role of eventgoers and allowing the first responders to practice screening visitors on the way in and rescuing people once the attack had happened.
"The whole drill wouldn't have been possible without them," Galligan said. "They were well-disciplined, well-led and did a great job."
Participants also practiced locating radioactive materials in the venue, which were brought in, handled and hidden by a radiation expert.
"It was strong enough to be detected by our sensors, but not strong enough to be a hazard," he said.
Galligan said bringing that many different agencies together for a training allowed them to identify issues with communication and coordination and find ways to improve or fix them.
The agencies drilled decontamination procedures, emergency triage and medical care, and performing rescues in protective gear.
"Training like this is invaluable," Galligan said. "Instead of trial and error during an incident, where lives are at stake, you can operate these exercises and anticipate the issues. You can train on all this stuff, but until you test the system with a full-size exercise—that's where you really do the learning."