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Dorney Park hosts terrorist attack drill

  • Firemen from Cetronia Fire Department ready themselves to enter the incident location
    Firemen from Cetronia Fire Department ready themselves to enter the incident location
Published May 14. 2013 05:02PM

Of all destructive events in nature and heinous acts of man, the desire of some people to harm others puts the public in the most heightened sense of terror.

The FBI reports that there have been six terrorist attacks in the U.S. from 2010 until present. The most recent attack, the April bombing at the Boston Marathon, killed six people and injured 180. These attacks stand testament to the power of preparation to responding to such disasters.

To prepare for the eventuality of such an attack, Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom hosted a multiagency terrorist attack drill from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Monday. South Whitehall Emergency Management Agency and Police Department, Lehigh Valley Hazmat and Special Operations, Cetronia Ambulance Corps and Fire Department, Lehigh County 911 and Coroner's Office, Lehigh Valley Health Network, St. Luke's University Health Network, the Allentown and Bethlehem Fire Departments, and more than 100 volunteer victims all participated in the drill, which was sponsored by the Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Counter Terrorism Task Force (NEPRCTTF).

"When an emergency occurs you always revert to the manner in which you have been trained and, during an emergency, it's too late to exchange business cards. The goals of NEPRCTTF is to provide training for emergency personnel who will respond to the dangerous conditions they confront and allow those persons to become familiar with the needs and operational abilities of other first responders prior to arriving at an actual emergency," NEPRCTTF Director Robert G. Werts explained in a press release.

The exercise was conducted and evaluated by the emergency management firm, Strategic Crisis Solutions (SCS).

"A crisis never occurs when it is convenient, so it is wise that agencies prepare for the inevitable in a proactive manner," Steven Harper, the president of emergency management firm Strategic Crisis Solutions (SCS), said in a press release.

The park was closed during the drill and even the press was restricted from entering to take pictures. Instead, Dorney Park's vice president of marketing Bernard Bonuccelli held a press conference with South Whitehall Township manager Jon Hammer and Michelle Harper, the vice president of SCS.

"We want to stress this is only a drill, but the drill will be as realistic as possible and will incorporate the help of volunteers who will pose as victims and various local, state, and federal agencies will assist in their treatment," Bonuccelli said before introducing Hammer who described the details of the scenario, which neither the emergency responders nor the press had been informed of until that morning.

"Let me just describe the scenario that is happening in the park right now. It's Friday, June 26, 2013, 2 o'clock in the afternoon. It is a typical day at the park. It is crowded, hot, and humid. There are approximately 10,000 people in the park. One of the restaurants at the park is packed with the lunch crowd," he explained.

"A little after 2 p.m., someone in uniform is reported bolting from the first floor side entrance of the restaurant. Shortly thereafter, restaurant patrons run out of the building, screaming, holding their eyes and gasping for air and reporting that someone sprayed something in the restaurant and that several people are unconscious inside. That is where we are with the drill," Hammer explained in the conference.

Harper, the vice president of Strategic Crisis Solutions, claimed the effectiveness of the response will not be directly graded or scored. The drill was intended to provide training for first responders and assess what can be improved to prevent miscommunication if an attack were to actually occur.

According to Harper, a team of evaluators comprised of members of the community and experts in relevant fields observed the drill and took notes. Their suggestions, the recommendations of Dorney Park staff, and the accounts of the emergency responders will be combined to provide a report on what was done well and what could be improved.

Harper says that the results of the drill will not be available to the public; however SCS anticipates having their final report for the park and township completed within a month. According to Harper, Hammer, and Bonuccelli, the drill and the results thereof will serve as a tool to assess the park's and community's capabilities, as well as practice disaster remediation.

"This exercise is a great way to improve our preparedness. I feel that we are fully prepared for most any eventuality, we have an emergency plan that is set in motion as soon as an emergency is declared. If there is anything at all that we missed, that is what this drill is designed to catch," Bonuccelli declared before closing the press conference.

Visitors to Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom can be assured that if a disaster or terrorist attack was to occur, both the park and the community have prepared.

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