MassDOT: This Is Only an Emergency Test

A staged motor vehicle accident might scare the locals, but it's not the real deal.

MassDOT wants residents to know that if they see a flood of emergency responders near the Sumner Tunnel late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, don’t be alarmed—it’s only a safety drill.

From 10 p.m. on March 18 through 2 a.m. the following morning, a brief training program, called Project Integrated Communications Incident Tunnel Exercise, will be going on inside the tunnel to “simulate a multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional” response to a mock motor vehicle accident that will look as though it has multiple injuries and even a fire.

Because of the drill, the tunnel will be closed to drivers during those hours. The exercise, developed in 2012, was created to test responders on how well they can communicate back-and-forth in times of distress, and how they can work together to diffuse a serious situation with limited resources at hand. The Sumner Tunnel is a long stretch of underground roadway that leaves people inside of it with limited options to get out.

According to MassDOT:

The exercise will include various activities associated with incident response and recovery in a simulated environment, including but not limited to use of alternate modes of communication, extrication and rescue, fire fighting operations, life safety systems deployment, and recovery operations.

Although the project, funded by the Department of Homeland Security, will be done in “real-time,” officials said that there will be staging and props set-up prior to the practice session, so people nearby shouldn’t be worried if they see a massive police and fire response in the area.

“Apparatus will be staged prior to the exercise, and trained volunteers will be acting as motorists impacted by the incident. Smoke machines will be used to simulate a fire environment and agencies will practice deployment of various life safety systems in the event of an actual incident of this nature,” a statement from MassDOT said.

The drill and response will require collaborative efforts between Troop E and F of the Massachusetts State Police, the Highway Operations Center, the Highway Division District 6, Boston Fire Department, Boston Emergency Medical Services, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the Boston Transportation Department, and the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management.

Remember: this is only a test.