The Ridgeland Police and Fire departments, the Jackson Bomb Squad, FBI, and Homeland Security were among 18 agencies that conducted a training scenario involving a mock terror attack at the Northpark Mall in Ridgeland, Miss., on Sunday night and Monday morning.
The training exercise centered on a nerve agent that was released and contaminated the air and every one inside.
"It's very realistic. We have 50 role players inside playing the parts of victims. We gave assignments of symptoms," said Allan McCluer, training officer for the Ridgeland Fire Department.
The exercise started Sunday night when the mall closed and ended early Monday morning, authorities said.
While responders knew about the exercise, they didn't know the specific details surrounding the fake nerve gas scenario. They had to respond as if it were a real crisis. All the agencies involved planned the exercise over the past several months, authorities said.
"That's what we're training for. If we reach the point where we can work together and communicate with each other then we're going to be able to better do our jobs, get out here quicker and protect the people here," McCluer said.
Mall management cooperated with the drill.
"Training like this is important. It's a necessary thing and unfortunately it has become more necessary in recent year so we're just happy to participate," said Audrie Thompson, Northpark Mall General Manager.
It's encouraging to see some positive activity occurring in preparing for a worst-case scenario.