OCEAN CITY, Md. – It was a simulated disaster, but the ominous words were still ones that no one wanted to hear.
"There has been an explosion at the coast guard station in Ocean City," said Lisa Dennis of Ocean City's Joint Information Team. "There are multiple victims and the Route 50 Bridge has been closed."
Dennis was the acting public information officer for Ocean City's emergency response exercise held Saturday morning.
"We designed the exercise around a sea burn event and a haz mat spill," said Joseph Theobald, Director of Ocean City's Emergency Services Department.
Crews from Salisbury, the Maryland State Police and the Coast Guard responded to a simulated bomb threat and explosion, leaving a number of people in need of medical attention, and a "suspect" on the loose.
A triage unit was created in a nearby parking lot, where gracious volunteers were bound to body boards, wrapped up and rinsed of "hazardous material."
After the victims were rescued and treatment began, the area quickly went from triage to crime scene.
The simulated explosion left gallons of fuel in the bay - represented by bags of pet wood chips - and a potential natural disaster on hand.
Coast Guard crews worked to isolate the spill, and search for answers on who could be responsible.
"You operate how you train," Theobald said. "And we take training and exercise very seriously in Ocean City."
The training was part of a federal requirement that must take place at least every five years. The last was in 2007 at the Ocean City Airport.
While there was no need for a full-scale response to a tragedy and search for suspects Saturday, the outcome of this dress rehearsal was just as important as a real event.
"I think this was very successful today. We were very happy and the town should be very happy," Theobald said. "We're ready for just about anything."
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