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Hilo hosts terrorism exercise

Updated: 
March 14, 2014 - 12:05am

With a bit of smoke, a couple of loud pops, and first responders dressed head to toe in protective gear, Edith Kanakaole Tennis Stadium in Hilo became the epicenter of a simulated terrorist attack Thursday.

The event, which included more than two dozen volunteers, was part of an annual drill with county agencies, the National Guard and Hilo Medical Center participating.

This year’s scenario involved a chemical and conventional attack by an eco-terrorist on a large event, said Maj. Alvin Sato of the Hawaii National Guard.

The mock event included apprehension of the terrorist at the National Guard Armory.

Darryl Oliveira, county Civil Defense administrator, said the drill went well, and he noted the simulation helps responders train for any emergency event.

“There is tremendous value to exercises like this,” he said. “It allows us to work together and get familiar with one another’s operations.”

Organizers used smoke to simulate a chemical attack at the north end of the stadium as a half dozen volunteers pretended to lie wounded. Some went into full acting mode, twitching and groaning in pain.

A couple of pops simulated the detonation of bombs at the south end.

One of the volunteers, Alina Patterson of Hilo, made sure to seem realistic.

Patterson said she was told to pretend she was having a seizure, and shook as emergency responders pulled her from the scene.

“You are trying to make it feel as real as you can,” she said.

Patterson said she was also supposed to simulate vomiting. But there was no spewing at the scene. She said she used coughing instead to mimic the symptom.

The event also involved activation of county Civil Defense’s emergency operations center and triage locations at Hilo Medical Center.

The hospital simulated treating 18 patients with injuries from the attack, Holly Kaakimaka, human resources director, said.

The hospital was prepared for about 40 volunteers, but not all could make it.

Still, Kaakimaka said the event was helpful to prepare for any emergency, whether a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

“I think Hilo is a location where we could see more emergencies,” she said, adding that the drills help the community be “prepared in the event something really happens.”

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.