Mock disaster events focuses on coordination

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 19, 2016

CHESAPEAKE — Members of several emergency services and first responders got hands-on training on Saturday to prepare them in the event of a disaster.

A mock emergency event was staged at Chesapeake middle and high schools.

Crews responded to the scenario of a tanker truck crashing on U.S. 52 and leaking a possibly hazardous chemical.

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Laura Brown, of the Ironton Health Department, said the event was a good chance for entities to come together.

“If we have a real life emergency, we need make sure we’re on the same page,” she said.

Crews on scene included fire departments from Chesapeake,Union Township, Fayette Township, Proctorville and Rome Township, Michael Boster, the emergency management agency director for Lawrence County, said.

Boster said emergency agencies are required by state and federal law to execute an emergency operations plan each year. He said that, while sometimes, this could involve personnel gathering around a table and discussing, at least once every four years, the departments stage a mock event.

“We’re testing the ability to notify everyone,” he said. “We’re getting the agencies together. We learned after 9-11 that response groups didn’t talk to one another.”

The American Red Cross was on hand and sat up a mock shelter while officials from the Chesapeake School District chose to use the exercise to test their own emergency preparedness.

Others involved included the county coroner, Lawrence County EMS, Patriot Ambulance, the Ironton Health Department, the Lawrence County Health Department and, from across the river in West Virginia, Cabell County EMS, who demonstrated how neighboring states can cooperate in a disaster event.

Members of the South Ohio Amateur Radio Association also took part, acting as a backup notification system for the public.

“That’s very, very important,” Boster said.

Boster said, in total, there were about 115 people working on the mock event.

Near the high school, a tanker truck was set up, courtesy of Honeywell from Louisiana, and Coal Grove fire crews suited up in hazmat suits, to engage in a simulated rescue effort and decontamination effort.

Personnel participating used radios to communicate throughout the event, punctuating each message with “This is an exercise.”

“That for people out there in scannerland,” Boster said, noting the need not to alarm the public.

The event unfolded in real time, with information becoming available to participants, as it occurred.

“We don’t know what’s in the tanker yet,” Brown, who acted as the public information officer, said midway through.

Personnel were evaluated by observers for their work throughout the exercise.