Exclusive look inside the FDNY's training for a subway emergency

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Exclusive look inside the FDNY's training for a subway emergency
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N.J Burkett has the latest

RANDALL'S ISLAND, Manhattan (WABC) -- New York's Bravest are preparing for the worst kind of emergency.

Eyewitness News had exclusive access inside the FDNY's elite training operation on Randall's Island.

It's as close to a real disaster as you can get.

The victims are sprawled across the platform and scattered through the subway cars.

The tunnel is pitch black, and filled with smoke, and the screams of injured riders pleading for help.

For the firefighters who will plunge into the smoky darkness to rescue them, this drill is as real as it gets.

"Time is of the essence, you want to get in as fast as possible and get the victims out as fast as possible," said FDNY Fire Academy instructor, Capt. Tim Callahan.

He says this kind of training is crucial, with real subway cars, real subway tracks, fog machines and recorded chaos, blasting through a simulated tunnel.

"Sometimes when we have it smoked-up you can't see your hand in front of your face," said Capt. Callahan. "If you can't see what's going on two feet in front of you, how are you going to know if there's a victim 10, 15 feet, hidden under a seat? Sometimes the conductor is in the compartment, so we have to find that guy too."

New York City firefighters do some kind of training at the Fire Academy every eight days. But this scenario, a mass casualty event in the New York City subway system, is one of the most challenging situations they'll ever face.

In this case it's a terrorist attack. The victims are carried off the train, through the tunnel and out onto the street.

N.J. Burkett: "How realistic is this?"

Lt. Robert Sottile, FDNY EMS: "It's pretty realistic."

N.J. Burkett: "You never get the same emergency twice in New York, do you?"

Lt. Sottile: "No you don't. It's always best to be prepared for anything that can happen."

N.J. Burkett: "So how did they do?"

FDNY Battalion Chief Thomas Robson: "They did well, they did well."

Tom Robson is the academy's executive officer.

"The more we train, the better we're going to be able to respond if something happens," said Robson. "We really do train for people's bad days but you hope those days never come."

If they can't prevent the next disaster, at least they'll be prepared for it.