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Disaster drill preps crews for evacuations from Shea

While the Mets got ready for the baseball season at spring training in Florida, the city’s emergency personnel borrowed Shea Stadium Sunday for a little training of their own.

More than 1,000 police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and employees from a host of other agencies and organizations participated in the city’s largest ever disaster preparedness drill Sunday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The drill, the 40th the city has held, also involved about 1,000 people acting as victims as a mock explosion sent smoke billowing out of Shea Stadium about 11 a.m. Sunday, the mayor said. Emergency and rescue personnel immediately went to work evacuating the building, assisting the injured and securing the scene, he said.

“The drill focuses on practical aspects — how to tell people, how to move people,” Bloomberg said at a news conference after the drill. “We don’t worry about why we would evacuate people. We want to make sure we have a plan for it.”

Players with mock injuries were treated by paramedics on the scene, and many were taken to more than 60 private and public hospitals for medical attention, Bloomberg said.

Other personnel patrolled the stadium and the parking lot for other dangers, and discovered two other mock bombs that had not gone off yet, said Joseph Bruno, incoming commissioner for the Office of Emergency Management. The devices were rendered safe soon after they were found, he said.

“There were two devices in the parking lot that would set off the detectors,” Bruno said. “The Police Department and others picked up on it almost immediately. That makes us feel very good.”

The drill will be evaluated over the next several days, including further tests on the type of explosions and damage, Bloomberg said.

“This gets people to think, ‘I could have responded this way or that way,’” he said. “We want to make sure everyone is thinking about it and that they don’t rely on a script.”

The test came on the heels of a terrorist attack in Madrid where 10 bombs detonated on four commuter trains, killing nearly 200 people and injuring hundreds more. The drill was planned before the attack and more have been planned for future dates, Bruno said.

“While we hope a scenario of this nature will never occur in New York City, it is vitally important that the city’s public safety and emergency response personnel are trained to deal with this type of event,” he said. “In addition, United Response was a good test of the city’s emergency response capabilities.”

Shea Stadium has hosted the disaster drills in the past, but this was the largest one the city has held so far.

“This operation also gave the Mets organization a rare opportunity to work with and learn from the nation’s leading experts on security matters,” said Jeff Wilpon, chief operating officer for the Mets. “It has always been our priority to ensure that Shea Stadium is a safe and enjoyable facility for our fans and customers.”

Security has also been boosted at Penn Station and Grand Central Station, and the MTA has distributer fliers to train passengers asking riders to report suspicious packages or activity to police or MTA employees.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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