Hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies participated in an emergency drill Sunday night at Park City Center.
The event was the final part of a 10-day regional exercise that began Friday, May 9, at Harrisburg Area Community College, and has played out at HACC, the Lancaster Public Safety Training Center and Fort Indiantown Gap.
The exercise, Wide Vigilance V, has had over 3,000 participants, training and preparing for a wide variety of both natural and man-made disasters.
The program is part of an on going two-year training cycle designed to challenge the officers of the Southeast Regional Task Force, and create enough teachable material for the next year and a half.
The initial scenarios are loosely based upon Hurricane Sandy-type effects, such as collapsed structures - including a hospital - hazardous material leaks and various other outcomes that would be expected in South Central Pennsylvania if a hurricane such as Sandy struck the mid-state area.
Sunday night brought law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical service, emergency management, 911 center personnel and private citizens together to prepare for a disaster that hopefully will never occur again - a mall shooting.
With mall shootings taking place in Nairobi, Kenya and more recently in Columbia, Maryland, local responders felt the need to prepare.
“It is always the hope that we can train and be prepared for any disaster that may occur in our region, with the hope that these events never happen. We would not be doing a job though if we did not consider the preparation needed for every possible type of disaster,” Greg Noll, program manager for the South Central Task Force, stated in a news release.
The exercise on Sunday was to include tactical teams from all levels of government, and weather permitting a landing by a medical evacuation helicopter. The task force reached out and had over 100 volunteers to play shoppers/victims. Some volunteers were “made-up” in moulage to look like they have been injured.
This is not the first exercise of this type at Park City.
“Park City management understands preparedness,” stated Noll, “Even though we are using the Park City Mall, this exercise helps responders from all over this part of the country prepare for this type of event, no matter where it takes place.”
Citizens were asked not to come to the mall, as security was expected be tight for the protection of the role players and emergency responders. PennDOT signs were placed around the mall alerting the community as to the exercise, so as not to alarm the public.
Noll went on to say the event isn't meant to scare anyone, but this is how first responders learn ways to keep the public safe. Wide Vigilance is expected to wrap up around 12:30 a.m. Monday.