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Tunnel Response Exercise, Sumner Tunnel, March 2014MassDOT and public safety partners conducted a successful full scale exercise in the Sumner Tunnel in March that challenged responders with a scenario involving a multi vehicle accident with fire and injuries, simulated loss of radio communications in the tunnel, and a traffic backup that complicated access to the scene.

The Sumner Tunnel was closed to traffic overnight during the exercise known as Project ICITE- Integrated Communications Incident Tunnel Exercise.

Project ICITE was developed by the MassDOT Highway Division to assess the impact of the loss of communications for first responders following a multiple vehicle incident in the Sumner Tunnel.  Participants included transportation and public safety personnel assigned to Troop E and F of the Massachusetts State Police, Highway Operations Center, Highway Division District 6, Boston Fire Department, Boston Emergency Medical Services, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Boston Transportation Department, and the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management.  The exercise included incident response and recovery in a simulated environment, such as alternate modes of communication, extrication and rescue, fire fighting operations, life safety systems deployment, and recovery operations.   

Project ICITE began as a table-top exercise in 2012 and through a grant from the Department of Homeland Security advanced to a functional exercise in March 2013 and the tunnel real-time response exercise in 2014.  Apparatus was staged prior to the exercise, and trained volunteers acted as motorists impacted by the incident. Smoke machines were be used to simulate a fire environment and agencies simulated deployment of various life safety systems in the event of an actual incident of this nature.

The exercise demonstrated once again how MassDOT and its public safety partners work collectively every day to ensure the safety and security of the people who use our complex tunnel systems in the City of Boston. MassDOT conducted an After Action Review Conference in April.

The exercise demonstrated collaboration across MassDOT, including the following:

  • Registry of Motor Vehicles provided a box truck which became the scenario epicenter; it was simulated to be on fire using smoke machines supplied from the MBTA Emergency Training Center.
  • MBTA also provided a retired passenger vehicle to allow the Boston Fire Department to practice advanced extrication techniques as well as a bus that was used to simulate traffic and transport exercise volunteers.
  • Highway Division, in particular District 6, supplied generators, tow vehicle support, support spaces, and invaluable communications expertise.
  • MassDOT Security & Emergency Management Department staff handled all aspects of exercise design and logistical coordination in-house.
  • A variety of other departments across MassDOT and the MBTA provided additional exercise support in the form of videography, printing services, promotional items, and more.

The Massachusetts State Police provided an escort and rolling road block that enabled nearly 30 volunteers from local colleges and emergency management organizations to participate in the exercise.

The exercise engaged MassDOT and first responders as they assessed, evacuated, and treated stranded and injured drivers in the tunnel in the face of a raging fire, near zero visibility, a failure of radio communications, and total traffic gridlock that required responders to enter the tunnel via contra-flow from Boston. A live video stream from a portable camera allowed media and officials to observe the action in real time from the Highway Operations Center.

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