NEW YORK (AP) – Hundreds of New York emergency responders simulated a coordinated terror attack Sunday, days before one of the city’s biggest public events: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The long-planned drill at a Manhattan subway station got a last-minute update in the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris. Officials added an “attacker” wearing a suicide vest.
“In New York City, we are, at this time, very well-prepared and continually improving that preparedness,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said outside the abandoned Bowery station in Lower Manhattan.
The three-hour active-shooter exercise took place in the pricey Soho neighborhood populated by art galleries and boutiques. Members of the police, fire and federal Homeland Security departments went into action after a mock call reporting a gunman on the station platform.
Of about 30 simulated straphangers in the station, a dozen suffered “critical wounds” from weapons firing blanks. Firefighters removed them on thick yellow plastic sheets – some covered with fake blood – and law enforcement personnel took on the threat.
First responders from various emergency departments worked as a team, with communication and coordination between agencies an important goal.
“There have been very significant improvements in that capacity since 9/11, also the coordination with the fire department,” Bratton said.
The Department of Homeland Security used the exercise to test technologies including GoPro-like cameras worn by first responders and acoustic gunshot detection systems designed to give police and firefighters information to coordinate their responses. Such systems are being developed for surveillance of the subway system, the commissioner said.
Sunday’s drill was funded by Homeland Security, and Bratton said there would be more such practice runs he says are “vitally necessary” and provide valuable response lessons.
Bratton said New York law enforcement authorities, together with Homeland Security, are working closely with Paris investigators studying details of the Nov. 13 attacks there, aiming to prepare for similar suicide-bomber terrorism that New York has never experienced.
The commissioner said New York would send a law-enforcement team to Paris when that probe was completed to learn as much as possible from those operations.
Mayor Bill de Blasio watched the three-hour drill, later calling it “an impressive display of the capacity of this city to respond.”
The Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, has said it would target the U.S., especially Washington and New York.
Bratton noted that there is no specific threat against the city. But security in the subways, Times Square and other prominent sites has been bolstered.
On Thanksgiving, thousands of officers – including 1,300 counterterrorism officers – will patrol the parade route and watch over millions of spectators, Bratton said. The parade passes through Times Square.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.