South Florida first responders test their skills during training operation

(WSVN) - First responders from several South Florida departments are testing their skills in a series of unique and realistic drills designed around real-world scenarios.

The terrorism training operation, known as Operation Heat Shield III, started at 6 p.m., Wednesday.

The full-scale exercises are taking place at PortMiami, Port Everglades and 19 other venues across South Florida.

“We’ve done a lot of training. We’ve done a lot of educating our first responders and what we are doing today is exercising everything that we hope we learned,” said Miami Fire Rescue Asst. Fire Chief Pete Gomez.

One scenario unfolded at Temple Israel of Greater Miami, where first responders participated in a drill involving an active shooter.

“We’re doing a complete mock exercise of just not police and fire response but also how it would be in the social media world,” said Miami Police Officer Kenia Fallat. “How we can tell people what to do in actuality from real time. Where to go, where to stay away from.”

Police and fire crews teamed up to stop the hypothetical shooter and tend to victims injured in the scenario.

Fallat, who is a public information officer, was also able to use the drill to practice communicating information to media.

“We were able to make entry. We were able to get the injured out to be seen by fire rescue,” said Fallat during the training session.

Meanwhile, another mock attack involving an officer shot in the back occurred near the AmericanAirlines Arena and PortMiami.

Miami-Dade Police Department’s Marine Patrol worked to help rescue the officer during the drill.

“The military has a very definite and specific mission. Our missions are a little bit different because we’re not the military,” said Gomez. “We are first responders, yet this is asymmetrical warfare that we are dealing with.”

At Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale, civilian actors ran for safety as first responders arrived to secure the scene.

During the drill, an SUV full of shooters first ran over people before the attackers exited the vehicle to shoot at both civilians and officers.

“What we’ve seen is we’re able to draw back and get measurable benchmarks and clear understanding about what deficiencies exist,” said Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony, “and we automatically go into challenging ourselves and correcting some of the things that we recognize in terms of what we can perform better on.”

The training operation continued until 6 a.m. Thursday, across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

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