Miami Beach

Only a drill: Rescuers handle ‘emergency’ on Venetian Causeway with boats, chopper

Imagine a house fire on one of the Venetian Islands while the west bridge of the causeway is completely shut down for construction and the east bridge is stuck in the raised position.

What would emergency responders do?

Miami Beach officials simulated such a situation during a training exercise Thursday, even though such a situation isn’t likely anymore. On Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard agreed to keep the eastern drawbridge locked down throughout the upcoming complete rebuild of the westernmost stretch of the Venetian Causeway.

It’s an assurance Venetian residents had wanted for months, and the exercise was a result of a public discussion held a month ago where residents asked to see what plan emergency responders had in case roadways were not an option to reach a situation on one of the islands.

So Thursday’s exercises carried on. Police and fire agencies from Miami Beach, Miami and Miami-Dade County, as well as the Coast Guard, collaborated on the exercise that saw rescue boats race across the bay and a helicopter respond to the northern tip of Di Lido Island.

“The purpose is to get there and to get there in a timely manner,” said Ernesto Rodriguez, spokesman for Miami Beach police.

A marine patrol boat that left from Purdy Avenue arrived at Di Lido within about a minute, arriving at a lot where a house is being built. A helicopter hovered overhead and landed near the toll plaza to simulate taking a patient to Mount Sinai Medical Center. The training exercises were complete by about noon.

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