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HFD and UTHealth students partner to stage first mock terrorist attack

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BY RYAN GRAHAM
 
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The Houston Fire Department opened its grounds to conduct its first mock terrorist attack training exercise for the University of Texas health students in early May.

The mock consisted of two separate simulated attacks that took place at the fire department training grounds adjacent to the Hobby Airport, and included sixty participating students from the schools of nursing, public health and biomedical informatics.

“The UTHealth students receive excellent education and training in the classroom, but this is an important aspect of training that’s totally new to them,” said HFD Captain Tony Reed.

The first simulation was modeled after a bomb detonation, taking advantage of a training area meant to simulate a bus-train collision. The second was an attack from a sniper perched atop a mock apartment building.

The simulations are an annual affair for HFD, but this year marked the first time they opened their training grounds to UTHealth medical students, allowing them to experience a situation in which they would be expected to act as first responders.

“We take a lot of steps to make everything feel real,” Reed said. “We use what I call ‘Hollywood effects,’ real fire, real props like the trains. We took thirty cadets and dressed them up in makeup to simulate injuries like broken bones and gunshot wounds.”

The cadets played the role of victims, and dressed in gory stage makeup to simulate the injuries they would have received in such events. As they lied, stumbled, and groaned across the training site, the students administered immediate aid, sorted the victims based on severity of injury, and transported them to ambulances for treatment.

“To train like this, it knocks the rust off,” said firefighter Kevin Desai, who acted as incident commander for the training exercise. “It makes you aware of real deficiencies in your chain of command, so that when a real incident of this caliber comes up, you can handle it.”

With the success of the exercise, HFD plans to coordinate with UT Health to run a similar exercise every year, hoping to ensure the university’s medical students receive training in an important area of their field.

-Ilse Gonzalez contributed to this report.

Follow Ryan Graham @TN_RyanG and Ilse Gonzalez @ilsemonette on Twitter.

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