North County Transit conducts holiday security drills

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OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- As the holiday season approaches, the North County Transit District is taking extra steps to keep passengers safe.

The tracks next to Oceanside Harbor set the stage Wednesday morning for a drill simulating a gunman aboard a train.

“We had an individual who simulated shooting passengers indiscriminately and train crew on board the train,” said Jaime Becerra, Chief of Transit Enforcement.

In the exercise, three of the 16 passengers aboard a San Diego-bound train simulated being shot. First responders boarded the train to take down the "shooter" and carefully evacuate the passengers.

“If we practice over and over again, we’ve thought through all the possible contingencies that could happen and that way we’re most prepared to respond,” said Katie Whichard, public information officer for North County Transit District.

Actual passengers of the Coaster volunteered to play passenger roles in the drill, transit officials said. This gives first responders a more realistic scenario.

“Our ridership comes from all different walks of life," Whichard said. “There’s some people that might be less mobile when we’re evacuating passengers and there might be people who require special consideration.”

The environment in which the exercise was conducted is also unique.

“With us, you have basically a confined space two levels of entry,” Becerra said. “They have to be aware of what’s going on inside and if the train is moving from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.”

The hope is that they will never have to act on the skills learned, but if they do, they will be ready.

“Emergency situations on the rail system do happen and this is something we want to train for and be ready for,” Becerra said.

“We would like to make sure everyone in San Diego feels on board all of our modes, be it the Sprinter, the Coaster or the Breeze busses,” Whichard said.