Local, State Agencies Participate in Planned Mock Disaster Monday

The mission of the project was to evaluate the response of a large-scale emergency.

by Angela Turner, The Times-Tribune, Corbin, Ky. / January 24, 2017

(TNS) - Local and state agencies gathered in Whitley County, Ky., Monday morning to participate in a planned mock disaster.

County Projects Director Amber Owens has spent over four months organizing with officials across the state along with hundreds of volunteers to put together the event.

Around 8:30 a.m., emergency management officials, evaluators and county officials met at the Emergency Management Office in Williamsburg to go over the planned disaster.

The mission of the project was to evaluate the response of a large-scale emergency.

“You can never predict when a disaster might happen,” Owens said. “We want to make sure our first responders are prepared for the situation if it happens.”

The first call went out around 11:15 a.m. declaring a plane crash with multiple victims near the Ballard Ford Boat Ramp. Shortly after that, a second mock emergency was beginning across the county near the General Shale Brick Yard, involving a train crash and chemical spill.

Members of Whitley County High School JROTC served as victims of the plane crash. Theater students from the University of the Cumberlands participated in the train crash scenario.

Local first responders from across the Tri-County helped with the event, including police, fire, EMS, and haz-mat. The National Weather Service played a role as well.

“We couldn’t have done this exercise without the help of Knox and Laurel counties,” Owens said. “They provided extra manpower and expertise in haz-mat, as well as taking incident command on the second scene. We also appreciate all of the evaluators that came from all over the state, and our local students who volunteered to be victims on both scenes to help our first responders improve their skills and better serve the people of Whitley County.”

At each scene, a team in place evaluated the response and care the local responders provided. Owens said the remarks from the evaluators were anticipated. Owens was already aware that communication and haz-mat were going to be issues.

“Communication is a large hurdle because of the remote areas,” Owens added. “There is no cell phone service at Ballard Ford.”

Communication was being provided via radio, which made for a lot of radio traffic.

Evaluators also noted haz-mat was an area first responders could improve. Owens said most have taken a haz-mat course when in school but it’s not a class that’s offered on a routine basis for first responders.

Evaluations revealed response time for all departments responding with enough members was excellent. The teamwork between the counties and each department was also noted.

“I’m very proud of all of our first responders today,” Owens added. “They showed up, worked together, used their training and didn’t treat this as an exercise.”

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©2017 The Times-Tribune (Corbin, Ky.)

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