Terrorism drill helps authorities test new technologies

DOWNEY - It all began with the sound of a pulsing grenade, followed by the tactful trekking of armed terrorists.With close to 30 wounded hostages in position, rattles of gunfire echoed through hollow hallways and vacant office spaces as local law enforcement aptly responded to the active shooter threat. From a command vehicle outside, first responders from six public safety agencies tracked the simulated confrontation, which was the highlight of a nearly nine-hour emergency drill intended to bolster communications between local, regional and federal agencies. In a collaborative effort to help prepare for a real-life emergency, the Downey Fire and Police departments along with more than 150 first responders from multiple agencies came together on Monday to practice specialized safety tactics during a joint training inside Building 290 at Downey Studios. From the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and L.A. County Sheriff's Department to the L.A. Police Department and L.A. County Fire Department, several public safety agencies participated in the drill, which was also sponsored by Raytheon, Downey Regional Medical Center, and Americare. The staged scenario, which began around 9 a.m., consisted of a coordinated terrorist attack at a local high school involving active shooters, hostages, and multiple causalities. In order to enhance the experience, dozens of volunteers, including students from Downey and Warren high schools, wore fake wounds, burns and lacerations painted on by professional makeup artists. During the drill, law enforcement officers loaded their guns with blank rounds and utilized both smoke grenades and flash bangs, devices that simulate the sound of an exploding grenade. Raytheon, which has a 27,000-sqaure-foot Public Safety Regional Technology Center in Downey, allowed the public safety agencies to use several new public safety technologies on Monday including the one force tracker, a program that allows every police officer and firefighter working in the field to communicate, share media, mobile apps, and information in one 3G network. Police officers also used TransTalk, a two-way speech translation module that can translate English into seven different languages, in addition to Raytheon's Sense Through the Wall mobile radar device, which detects movement behind walls as wide as eight inches thick. "The FBI swat team used it going into the building," said Daniel De Sollar, director of the regional technology center. De Sollar said Raytheon is hopeful its technologies will help enhance communication and interoperability between law enforcement and fire agencies going forward. "The benefit of drills like this is it allows first responders to come together. It's a good opportunity to get their tactics and communications all synchronized," said De Sollar. "Through these simulations, they can be prepared for procedures in case of a mass event." Raytheon also placed remote wireless cameras inside and outside the building during the drill in order to capture footage, which was sent to the command center. Once hostages were removed from Building 290, the volunteer victims were sectioned off in the Downey Fire Department's color-coded triage area before several were taken to Downey Regional for diagnosis and treatment. Downey Mayor Roger Brossmer praised the joint training in a statement released last Friday and welcomed future collaborations between the city and each local and federal fire agency in attendance. "This emergency drill provides a great opportunity for our community to prepare for when an actual emergency situation arises," commented Brossmer. "And it reinforces our commitment to taking a proactive approach towards emergency preparation." De Sollar said it's rare public safety agencies get the chance to run live exercises in such a large amount of space. "They're developing muscle memory," he said. "The more times you do these drills, the more you practice it...when you get in the game, you take advantage of that practice."

********** Published: June 28, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 11