New York City

NYC Tunnel Disaster Readiness: Can Practice Now Make Perfect When…?

NYC Tunnel Disaster Readiness means FDNY, NYC Emergency Management and CERT Volunteers team up to save lives. Abandoning days off and personal comfort were mandatory as a hearty group pitched in underground.

By David Stone

For New York City, the scenario is terrifying.

A terrorist attacks and victims, trapping inside a lightless tunnel. Accidents and severe weather can also make it happen.

NYC Tunnel Disaster Readiness
The lineup: Volunteers prepare for NYC Tunnel Disaster Readiness training.

Which event doesn’t matter because they must be rescued quickly or die.

Related: Counting New York’s Homeless

NYC Tunnel Disaster Readiness Get Real

Early in May, the New York City Fire Department, Emergency Management and a hardy core of CERT volunteers ran three days of drills. They want to be ready if a disaster strikes.

“Last week, CERTs participated in FDNY drills that simulated multiple simultaneous acts of terrorism: a bomb in a subway tunnel, a party boat explosion, car crash and fires in a tunnel, and a subway wall collapse,” said Frank Farance, one of the volunteers.

“We got to see FDNY’s Rescue Drones and Search Robots used in their response.”

Raw physical power engaged in lifesaving.

In a FDNY photo, a firefighter slams a sledgehammer into a concrete wall, breaking through to trapped victims.

Cars wrecked inside the tunnel, victims trapped inside.

Acetylene torches burn through thick steel behind the concrete.

A drone to makes its way down the pitch dark tunnel, searching for victims and assessing conditions.

As shown on Eyewitness News, victims located deep inside helped safely because drones and walking bots sent images back to rescuers.

A “victim” of the tunnel collapse, preparing to play the role.

Rescuers arrive prepared. A victim impaled by a pole is made as comfortable as possible before being carried outside to a hospital.

A local reporter came along for the experience.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter Mary Frost participated as CERT volunteer and filed a report.

“Last week, I lay on a freight train tunnel running below East New York, ‘impaled’ by an iron pipe. Laying on my back in the black tunnel, it all felt real. Noises from far down the shaft echoed eerily, then faded.”

Read Frost’s report here.

CERT volunteer Frank Farance provided all photos not otherwise attributed. He also filed this video, showing what it’s like to be stuck in a tunnel during a disaster, fortunately in this case, a simulated disaster:

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