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Arizona first responders prepare for terrorist attack

PHOENIX — Arizona’s emergency crews are not waiting for terrorists to hit home. Instead, 150 first responders converged in south central Arizona Wednesday for a mock attack.

They’re members from The Urban Areas Security Initiative, Rapid Response Task Force and the Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, and Nuclear Task Force.

As the memberships implied, nearly every emergency resource available — whether it was a helicopter, fire trucks, mobile command centers, even swat units — headed out to the Phoenix Fire Department’s training center near Lower Buckeye and 22nd Avenue.

Phoenix Fire Captain Mark Vanacore noted the number of lives saved in the moments after an attack depends directly on the response time crews take to reach the targeted areas.

“It really shows the need for us to pool our resources with the police department and all the special operations units to work together,” he said.

To make the drill more challenging, Vanacore said they placed the large scale, fictional attack in an inconvenient location “taking place in a small town in Arizona, including building collapses, an active terrorist scene and active shooters.”

Cameras and recorders were allowed to capture only a short version of the training. Vanacore said that’s because crews were testing the latest tactical advances in fighting terrorism.

“Some of the maneuvers and techniques are really ground breaking,” he said, “something that we’re not willing to share with any potential bad guys.”

The drill is held at least every other year, so that if Arizona is ever attacked by terrorists, crews can arrive, secure and protect the state faster.