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Drill Puts University, Municipal Emergency Response Teams to the Test

Tuesday's emergency response drill at Stony Brook University brought more than a dozen agencies together to practice a coordinated response to a catastrophe.

Imagine a scenario like this:

Hundreds of community members, of all ages, have come to at Stony Brook University to watch a free movie showing. Suddenly, a suspicious white van crashes into the stadium, releasing a biohazardous chemical into the air in the stadium. It's a suicide attack as one person in the van succumbs to the chemicals, but another – who is armed – flees the scene and barricades himself in one of the dormitories, proceeding to open fire. A mass evacuation of the stadium takes place, along with triage, decontamination, and treatment of those who have been injured in the shooting.

Stony Brook University's emergency management teams envisioned a theoretical scenario just like that one on Tuesday, and called in agencies from all over Long Island to practice handling such a catastrophe. University officials dubbed it "Operation C.H.A.O.S." – for "Campus Hazardous Materials and Other Situations."

"One of the big things we're trying to test here is 'interoperability," said Larry Zacarese, assistant chief of police and director of emergency management.

"It is the absolute worst case scenario" to test all the limits of the emergency repsonse procedures, he said.

Had it been an actual emergency, a campus-wide text message would have been blasted out, along with an announcement on the school's website and instructions on how to stay as safe as possible. If the stadium itself were to be actually contaminated, an environmental cleanup company would have been brought in to take care of the situation.

Responding agencies included: the Setauket Fire Department, university police and fire marshals, Stony Brook University Hospital, Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the Suffolk County Police Department, county EMS and fire rescue departments, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Plum Island Animal Disease Center, Brookhaven fire marshals, Islip Town Hazardous Materials Team, Brookhaven Memorial Medical Center, Southside Hospital, Huntington Hospital, St. Catherine of Sienna Hospital, St. Charles Hospital, Mather Hospital, and numerous other fire and EMC agencies from around Long Island. About 100 volunteers from among the student population acted as "victims."

"We are significantly self sufficient, but still reliant on volunteers" from the community at large, said Zacarese, who later called the drill "a resounding success."

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