Don’t duck and cover! The disaster at the Barclays Center tonight is only a drill

Drilled: The New York fire department and U.S. Marine Corps will stage a chemical attack drill at the Barclays Center on Friday night from 8 pm until 2 am on Saturday.
Photo by Paul Martinka

Don’t be alarmed by the dead and bleeding people or the figures in gas masks running out of military vehicles — it’s only a drill.

Marines and firefighters are staging a chemical attack drill at the Barclays Center tonight to prep first responders for the unthinkable, and they are not skimping on the Hollywood details, according to a Marines spokesman.

“Marines will go in flight suits, [hazardous materials] suits with self-breathing apparatuses, gas masks, the whole nine yards,” said Sgt. Kuande Hall of the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, a Maryland-based unit that is training New York firefighters to respond to chemical attacks this week. “We are preparing for that thing that we all hope won’t happen: a nuclear explosion, a big chemical explosion.”

Tonight, from 8 pm to 2 am, a fake explosion will test firefighters’ response know-how at the 18,000 seat arena at the busy intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues after a week of training around the city and on Randall’s Island.

The attack scenario, according to Hall, is a plot with every element planned to the T: a fake president and first lady will be in attendance at a packed fake basketball game that is to be rocked by a simulated explosion. Firefighters on the scene will have to determine what fake chemicals or radiological agents are in the air. They will then rush dead-people mannequins and Office of Emergency Management actors made up to look like blast victims out of the arena, first through a decontamination line attended to by people in hazardous material suits, then to a medical tent.

They did miss one detail, though. The scene staged in the home of the Brooklyn Nets will center on a game between the Boston Celtics and the Nets’ hated rivals across the East River, the New York Knicks, a mistake Hull said was an oversight.

“We should probably mention that to the trainers who wrote it,” Hull said. “That or I might have misheard.”

Residents can expect to see military vehicles, emergency personnel in head-to-toe suits, and “disaster victims” near Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth avenues.

“I hope we don’t scare anyone,” Hull said.

The Marines unit was established in 1996 in response to the sarin attacks in Tokyo’s subway with a mission to assist first responders in the face of chemical attacks, not to fight in American streets or investigate crimes, according to Hull. The unit has been on hand at events including presidential inaugurations, State of the Union addresses, and the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga and, according to Hull, it has been training New York firefighters for several years.

Atlantic Terminal, the busy subway and Long Island Railroad station beneath the modern-day Barclays Center, was the target of a real terror attack in 1997, when two men plotted to explode pipe bombs inside the station.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout. Reach editor Nathan Tempey at ntempey@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4504. Follow him at twitter.com/nathantempey.

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