Preparing for the worst
In the end, terrorists never win.
With a bit of smoke, a couple loud pops, and first responders dressed head to toe in protective gear, Edith Kanakaole Tennis Stadium became the epicenter of a simulated terrorist attack on Thursday.
The event, which included over two dozen volunteers, was part of an annual drill with county agencies, the National Guard and Hilo Medical Center all participating.
This year’s scenario involved a chemical and conventional attack by an eco-terrorist on a large event, dubbed the Mango Festival, said Maj. Alvin Sato of the Hawaii National Guard.
The mock event included apprehension of the terrorist at the National Guard Armory.
Initially, organizers were using the Merrie Monarch festival, which uses the stadium, as the event in the simulation.
Darryl Oliveira, county Civil Defense administrator, said he made the request to change the name as to not give the impression that any particular event is vulnerable.
“We don’t want the public to think there is any concern for Merrie Monarch when there really isn’t,” he said.
Overall, Oliveira said the drill went well, and said the simulation helps responders train for any emergency event.
“There is tremendous value to exercises like this,” he said. “It allows us to work together and get familiar with one another’s operations.”
Organizers used smoke to simulate a chemical attack at the north end of the stadium as a half dozen volunteers pretended to lie wounded. Some went into full acting mode, twitching and groaning in pain.
A couple loud pops simulated the detonation of bombs at the south end.
One of the volunteers, Alina Patterson of Hilo, made sure to seem realistic.
Patterson said she was told to pretend she was having a seizure, and shook as emergency responders pulled her from the scene.
“You are trying to make it feel as real as you can,” she said.
Patterson said she was also supposed to simulate vomiting. But there was no spewing at the scene. She said she used coughing instead to mimic the symptom.
The event also involved activation of county Civil Defense’s emergency operations center and triage locations at the hospital.
The hospital simulated treating 18 patients with injuries from the attack, said Holly Kaakimaka, human resources director.
The hospital was prepared for about 40 volunteers, but not all could make it.
Still, Kaakimaka said the event was helpful to prepare for any emergency, whether a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.
“I think Hilo is a location where we could see more emergencies,” she said, adding that the drills help the community be “prepared in the event something really happens.”
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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