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July 28, 2022

Low-flying military helicopters over Philly this week are part of training exercise

A homeland security response unit is testing emergency systems at various locations in the city

Government Training
helicopters emergency drill Staff photo/PhillyVoice

Military helicopters flying low above Philadelphia this week, like this one seen over the Schuylkill River in University City, are part of a military exercise led by the U.S Army. The drill is simulating chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incident to coordinate emergency responses.

If you've seen and heard more helicopters than usual above Philadelphia this week, it's not your imagination.

Multiple agencies and local partners are working with the U.S. Army Task Force 46, a specialized homeland security response unit, on a series of emergency preparedness training exercises. 

Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management posted a notice this week that the Dense Urban Terrain exercises had been scheduled for Wednesday, July 27, and Thursday, July 28 at a number of locations in the city.

The joint-training exercises are intended to test interagency planning, search and rescue, communications, and emergency systems during simulated chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incident responses.

The military helicopters over the city on Wednesday and Thursday are from the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Our 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade is supporting a full-scale training exercise in Philadelphia today and...

Posted by Pennsylvania National Guard on Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Also participating in the exercises are the Philadelphia Police Department, Philadelphia Fire Department and several hospitals in the city.

The public has been notified that in addition to marked vehicles, helicopters and boats, there also will be role players with mock injuries visible near drill scenario locations. The exercises are scheduled between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and could result in temporary traffic delays and access closures.

The following locations are being used for the joint exercises:

• Philadelphia Fire Academy, Northeast Philadelphia
• Pleasant Hill Park, Northeast Philadelphia
• Philadelphia Navy Yard, South Philadelphia
• CSX Railyard, South Philadelphia
• SEPTA NRG Station, South Philadelphia
• Port of Philadelphia
• Albert Einstein, Penn Presbyterian, Pennsylvania, Temple, and Thomas Jefferson hospitals

Wells Fargo Center parking lots A, B, G and H are closed to the public on Thursday. Access also will be restricted at the parking lot at Linden and Delaware avenues at Pleasant Hill Park, as well as in the area of Kitty Hawk Avenue and League Island Boulevard near the Navy Yard.

During the exercises, drone usage is prohibited by the FAA at the locations noted above.

"This joint exercise is a culmination of nearly 10 months of planning highlighted by over two dozen steering committee and workgroup meetings between more than 18 local, state, and federal partners, all with the goal of working together to support the shared homeland security mission," said Dominick Mireles, director of Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management.

Similar Dense Urban Terrain training exercises were first held in Detroit in 2018. They've also been done in Los Angeles and New York City.

"Training is an essential, core function of emergency management," Mireles continued. "It is critical that agencies across all levels of public service and safety have a common understanding of plans, resources, capabilities, and contacts through these combined practice operations in the event an actual emergency should happen.”