A drill simulating a chemical bomb explosion at John Thurman Field on Friday served as valuable training for both the first responders and the actors playing victims.
Students from Modesto Junior College’s emergency medical technician classes portrayed victims. The scenario, according to exercise director Justin Flood, involved an explosion during a Modesto Nuts game. Flood is a sergeant with the Hayward-based 95th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, an Army National Guard unit that assists police agencies in cases involving weapons of mass destruction.
Participating departments included Modesto police and fire, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, and several area hospitals and ambulance agencies. All of the responders knew they were taking part in a drill, but they didn’t know its nature. And that’s the point, Flood said.
The drill served to test the responders on their reactions to various situations. For instance, when they entered the ballpark and found victims exhibiting symptoms of chemical exposure, they immediately put on respirators and air tanks.
As the day went on, more of the scenario would play out, said Nicholas Otero, assistant master sergeant for the 95th. Someone would come across a suspicious device, and the bomb squad would be called out to identify and defuse it. Then a witness would come forward offering the story of a co-worker who had been seen assembling something in a room. At the time, it didn’t raise suspicion, as the man told his co-worker that he was working on a new fertilizer for the field.
“Maybe he was just really into his green grass,” Otero said. But when the incidents started occurring, the co-worker clued in. That’s where the 95th would come in, as local teams would call for help with handling a weapon of mass destruction.
For the “victims,” it was a learning experience receiving help instead of offering it, said instructor Mike Helton, who coordinated their participation. And they see a fairly realistic simulation of the chaos that would ensue if such a scenario happened.
“They also learn what each individual is doing,” he said.
The actors got into their roles, begging for help and portraying their assigned symptoms with enthusiasm.
One participant was appointed to demand assistance from anyone and everyone who passed by his immediate area.
“I’m going to die!” he hollered. “I’ve got a bone sticking out the size of Texas.”