On Friday night, the Barclays Center turned into a disaster area packed with dead and dying people and emergency personnel rushing around in hazardous materials suits — and it was all part of a military drill to prep for a possible chemical attack.
The U.S. Marine Corps and the fire department conducted the hours-long drill at the 18,000-seat arena at the busy intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues and, as disturbing as the scenes sound, one Prospect Heights resident said Brooklynites are better safe and scared than sorry and dead.
“It’s reassuring in the sense that you want to know that they are thinking these things through,” said Dean Street resident Peter Krashes, who watched the exercise that lasted from 8 pm to 2 am. “They need to do these rehearsals and it’s good they do them on site because they are learning the terrain.”
At least 100 emergency personnel and 25 Office of Emergency Management actors made up to look like blast victims participated in the mock catastrophe that involved a series of staged explosions during a fake basketball game at the arena, with a bogus president and first lady in attendance. A high-tech, bomb-detecting robot also made an appearance at the drill that took place just days after the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and Krashes said the special effects were top-notch — though the actors could have used some lessons on staying in character.
“Occasionally you saw a guy walking around with a pole sticking out of his chest,” he said.
The Marines’ Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, a Maryland-based unit that has been training New York firefighters to respond to chemical attacks for several years, led the exercise. The scenario that played out at the home of the Brooklyn Nets centered on a game between the Boston Celtics and the Nets’ hated rivals across the East River, the New York Knicks, a mistake a Marines spokesman said was an oversight.
Disaster drills with the U.S. Marine Corps happen once a year, according to a spokesman for the Office of Emergency Management. For the past two years the drills were held at Penn Station in Manhattan.
Atlantic Terminal, the busy subway and Long Island Railroad station beneath the modern-day Barclays Center, was the target of an actual, failed attack in 1997 when two men plotted to explode pipe bombs inside the station.