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26/11 attacks simulated to check security preparedness

world Updated: May 22, 2011 14:57 IST

PTI
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Fire crews and SWAT teams simulated terrorist strikes modelled after the deadly 26/11 Mumbai attacks in Boston on Sunday as part of emergency drills conducted across the city to check preparedness of the security apparatus in case similar catastrophes strike.

'Operation Urban Shield', paid for with a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, included 24-hours of emergency drills in Boston where first responders prepared for the worst.

The exercises culminated in a three-hour terrorist assault at the Boston Marine Industrial Park imitating the Mumbai attacks.

The fake terrorist attack was carried out to allow multiple agencies to work together, which authorities said was a kind of training they had never had before.

"We have to be prepared for everything. We have to be able to respond organically for the first 72 hours, before we could expect people from outside to help," Boston Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser said.

During the elaborate large-scale simulation, SWAT teams, fire and emergency medical crew faced a number of scenarios at various locations across Boston like a bomb inside a car, a building collapse and a hostage situation on a boat.

Security agencies used paintballs instead of bullets, actors posed as victims and the explosions were controlled during the multi-department training exercise.

"We have never had fire, emergency medical teams go in when there is a hot zone and rounds are being fired, and we are going to challenge our teams to do that for the first time," Superintendent in Chief Dan Linskey said.

Linskey added that they worked with devices modelled after some of the things US troops are seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The first responders did not know what they were in for and had to react in real time.

The exercise was aimed at learning from mistakes and "have issues now so there won't be any during the real thing.

The activities were part of the nation's first collaborative 24-hour training exercise.

"We are training for situations that may not happen very often, every five or six years. But we have to train to the highest level," Boston Fire Department's Jim Welsh said.

City Mayor Thomas Menino assured the public that the emergency training exercise was aimed at helping first responders keep the Boston area safe and that the public should not panic.

"This drill is only a test. There is no reason to be alarmed," Menino said.