The Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan is the largest and busiest bus terminal in the world with as many as 7,000 buses loading and unloading 200,000 customers on a typical weekday. It covers two city blocks, and has six levels that include shops, restaurants and public parking for 1,250 cars.The New York subway runs underneath and the Bus Terminal is joined to the Lincoln Tunnel by a ramp system.
This could make it a target for domestic or international terrorists, and that fact keeps emergency managers awake at night. It’s one of the reasons that authorities and emergency management teams with The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have been rehearsing and exercising various scenarios, and calling on the expertise of TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center for the past several years.
At TEEX’s Emergency Operations Training Center, Stephen Napolitano’s nightmares come to life. Napolitano, General Manager of the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Lincoln Tunnel, was at the EOTC recently for a computer-simulated exercise that involved two car bombs exploding at the terminal. He was joined by 48 other emergency response personnel and officials from New York City and The Port Authority in the EOTC command post in College Station.
“We got 49 people together from more than 20 agencies and brought them across the country for this exercise,” Napolitano said. “These are the people who would respond to an incident at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Lincoln Tunnel. They are working as a group and playing out the exercise. The benefit of this is tremendous – from the contacts you make to the skills set you take away.”
“This is a world-class facility, and the instructors are extremely knowledgeable,” he said. “They do an excellent job. The way courses are outlined and constructed is top-shelf. This feedback comes from others here – and these are people who have 25 or 30 years on the job, and are tops in emergency services. They have attended lots of training and if you can ‘wow’ them, then you’ve done something – and you have ‘wowed’ them.”
Napolitano said this was the first time the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Lincoln Tunnel have held a joint emergency drill. “I was impressed by the amount of planning and effort that went into this exercise, and that level of planning really paid off. It was well thought-out, well-planned and (the scenario was) well-created,” he added.
“From my standpoint, I feel a lot better knowing that if, God forbid, we had a serious incident, the talented people who would respond are better off for coming to this course. We’ve very fortunate to be able to come here. This training puts our preparedness another notch higher.”
The recent EOTC training exercise was funded by a federal grant at no cost to the agencies participating. A full-scale, on-site exercise at The Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan is planned for Spring 2011.