Emergency Crews Run Large-Scale Drills
By Tyler Pratt
Today Austin began demonstrating the first exercises of Urban Shield, a full-scale regional preparedness exercise. Over the weekend, Austin’s public safety agencies will assess Central Texas’ ability to respond to and manage terrorist events and other emergencies throughout Travis, Hays and Williamson Counties.
In East Austin on Friday, firefighters scrambled to rescue a child from a collapsed parking garage. The child was a mannequin and there no actual garage collapse.
“At this site is what’s called an urban search and rescue exercise,” said Larry Jantzen with the Austin Fire Department. “We have 18 structural collapse teams, consisting of six persons each, from Austin Fire Department, Round Rock Fire Department and Cedar Park Fire Department.”
Several scenarios are planned across the area: a courtroom takeover, a shooter and a mass-contamination terrorist attack.
“What they are doing is simulating large event in an auditorium, and then there’s a chemical spill, a terrorist attack,” said Candice Wade Cooper of the city’s homeland security office.
With all the armor, riot gear and artillery used in terrorist attack training, some civil libertarians worry that this level of emergency preparedness is contributing to the militarization of local police forces.
The Urban Shield exercises are scheduled to last until Sunday.
Photographer Filipa Rodrigues was at this morning’s training scenario at the Govalle Waste Water Treatment Plant in southeast Austin. Her photos are in a slideshow below powered by the KUT News Flickr page.