The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) held an emergency preparedness drill September 30 simulating a terror attack.
The drill, held from 10 pm to 3 am at the Midtown Station, featured participants from 17 federal, state and local agencies along with actors wearing makeup to look like bloodied and burned victims.
Explosions, gunshots and smoke created a real-life effect to test the readiness of first responders. Every year, MARTA holds a drill to test preparedness of police and first responders to various scenarios including hurricanes, cyber attacks, pandemics and even a nuclear attack.
The drill was funded through a federal grant from the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program. The nature of the crisis being simulated was kept secret until it unfolded so the reaction of emergency services could be genuine and their performance evaluated.
First and foremost, the drill allowed the many departments which would be involved in a real-life crisis a chance to work together and establish relationships with each other, according to Lieutenant Aston Greene, manager of MARTA’s Emergency Preparedness Unit.
Because the jurisdiction of MARTA is so broad, 250 emergency units from across Atlanta participated in the event, which was dubbed “Operation Midtown After Dark.”
“I can’t tell you how much value it is that when we do have an incident like the I-85 bridge collapse, that you are literally getting calls from the leaders of different agencies asking you ‘Hey, Lieutenant Greene, do you guys need any help?’” Greene said. “This exercise series for us is really a way of making sure that we have those relationships in place.”
MARTA operates a network of bus routes linked to a rapid transit train system that services 500,000 daily. The system includes 48 miles of train tracks with 38 train stations and is the eighth-largest transit system (in terms of ridership) in the U.S.