Exclusive look behind the scenes at NYPD, FDNY counterterrorism drill

RANDALLS ISLAND, Manhattan (WABC) -- An Eyewitness News exclusive provides a behind the scenes look at how first responders get themselves prepared for a catastrophe.

Police and firefighters took part in a joint counterterrorism hazmat drill Tuesday night on Randalls Island.

In the drill, something awful has happened on the subway. Screams reverberate throughout a stopped 7 train that's thick with chemical smoke. There are casualties everywhere, waiting for help.

And into this toxic brew rush two transit cops, the first on the scene.

All their training and common sense had better not fail them now.

"This is as real as it gets," said FDNY Battalion Chief Tim Rice. "An actual subway station that's been attacked by a terrorist with a chemical agent of some type."

The drill was planned by Rice, of the Fire Department's weapons of mass destruction branch.

At the Fire Academy's mock subway station, the FDNY and NYPD joined forces in a rare chance to practice how the two agencies work together when faced with the worst.

"Some of the lessons we've learned since 9/11 is that in large scale incidents, that's not the first time you wanna meet your counterpart from another agency," said Rice.

Both agencies spooled up their hazmat response as fire and police commanders joined forces on the ground.

Officers made their way into the tunnel and found two metal canisters amid a tangle of the dead and dying, people who have fled into the tunnel to escape the smoke, but some touched the third rail.

Others can barely breathe.

Firefighters help the walking wounded out of the tunnel and to be decontaminated, and every rescuer must be hosed down as well.

It may have been a drill, but it's anything but a game.

"New Yorkers have earned the right to expect the very best from the fire department and police department each and every day," said Jim Waters, the NYPD's Chief of Counterterrorism.

"Every incident you see there's always cops on the scene right away and they do a tremendous job, the fire fighter right away," said FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard. "They take an oath to protect the people of this city and they do it at the cost of their lives way too many times."

* More Manhattan news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.