What Happens If a Bomb Goes Off on a SEPTA Train?

Emergency responders in Philly were put to the test over the weekend as “Operation Edge” simulated a terror attack in the city. The scenario involved a “bomb” exploding on a subway train at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. Calls flooded 9-1-1 with people “reporting” that they were trapped in the subway tunnel and couldn’t see anything. It didn’t take long for problems to arise.

At the command post, communications issues arose between departments. Underground, confusion over a life-and-death issue: Should the rescuers follow procedure and retreat until the bomb squad handled the other suspected IEDs (improvised explosive devices)? Or risk it and rescue the victims while the bomb squad worked?

That wasn’t the only problem, though.

The designer of the exercise, bomb squad commander and Philadelphia Police Lt. Tom Fitzpatrick, added another wildcard, and another lesson learned.

Near the command post, an out-of town ambulance went un-noticed. Inside: a 900-pound bomb meant to kill the first responders. It was an important element borrowed from a real-world terror plot.

Those involved, though say that the exercise was helpful and that the first responders and emergency personnel worked together to handle the fictional dilemmas on the fly.

Police Chief Sullivan said, “We faltered along the way, but we regrouped, and we worked our way collectively through those problems we were confronted with. And that’s the way things happen in real life.” [CBS News]