Thursday, April 2, 2009
Disaster drill hailed as
Monitor Staff Reports
MABANK–From all reports, the disaster drill staged in Mabank Saturday was a success.
Sirens sounded at about 8:25 a.m. signaling the arrival of a tornado. Police and fire rescue were dispatched, just before communications went down in the mock scenario.
Temperatures hovering just above freezing did not deter first responders, as a number of scenarios were played out.
Disaster coordinator Mat Ewaskiw was pleased with the drill overall.
“I think it went real well, considering it was our very first disaster drill,” he said. “It was real nice to see everyone working together in such a professional manner.”
About 20 agencies participated, including the Kemp Volunteer Fire Department, Cedar Creek Amateur Radio Club, storm spotters, Humane Society, American Red Cross and the First United Methodist Church in Mabank, to name a few.
“I believe it was very beneficial to the police, fire, EMS, water department and Red Cross,” Mabank city manager Louann Confer said. “Hopefully, we won’t have a disaster, but I think everyone will be better prepared if we do.”
Confer participated as a victim with a fatal spinal cord injury, who was placed on a backboard and transported to the ETMC Emergency Center in Gun Barrel City, where she later “expired.”
A formal debriefing was scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday.
As a member of the Mabank Volunteer Fire Department, John Holcomb (also the Henderson County fire marshal) participated in the drill and thought it “went really well.”
His only criticism involved the downed communications, which was part of the drill.
In a real disaster, Kaufman County would have responded with a mobile command post, or if they were needed elsewhere, the Mabank fire station would have become the command post, with its portable generator and emergency communications capability, he explained.
Holcomb felt everyone worked well together and transportation (a Mabank ISD school bus) came in to help at the right time to deliver victims to the Red Cross shelter at the Methodist church.
Each person was employed doing what they do best, and for Holcomb that was getting the necessary NIMS forms filled out on each incident as it occurred.
Besides prioritizing the walking wounded and stabilizing those very seriously injured for transport, first responders rescued a survivor from a severely damaged house, responded to hysteria, pried open a door on a car to free the victims of a crash, treated a firefighter who had been electrocuted, and rounded up children separated from their parents and delivered them to the emergency shelter.
Victims came with all sorts of health conditions, from diabetes to high blood pressure and more.
A dispensary of medications, comfort kits, bedding and refreshments were made available by the American Red Cross.
Red Cross branch manager Michelle Conrad was greatly impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment of those working the disaster, as well as the volunteer “victims.”
“The opportunity to work with so many different partners in a drill of this scope is so important,” Conrad said. “During the drill, we got to know one another face-to-face, which really enhances communication for when a real occurrence takes place.”
Lessons learned from Hurricane Ike were put into practice during the drill, and other weaknesses were revealed for later improvement, she added.
One good thing coming from the drill is that now a number of cots will be stored locally, instead of having to be transported, which will improve the readiness of the shelter in an emergency, Conrad said.
“We really thank the church members, who were great. They were well-prepared and organized for this drill and for their commitment in providing a storage area,” she said.
Safety and security have been upgraded for Mabank city workers as a result of the drill, utility supervisor Ronny Tuttle said.
All 45 city workers now have reflective vests and hard hats, along with a city-issued photo identification card, so they can be clearly identified by the public, he said.
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Robert Allen (left) talks on his shortwave radio as fellow ham operators Jerry
Randall and Bill Saylor listen in at the emergency communications setup at the
First United Methodist Church of Mabank. The three, along with other members
of the Cedar Creek Amateur Radio Club, provided emergency communications
from five different locations during Saturday’s disaster drill. A ham radio operator
“spotted” the simulated tornado as the drill began.
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Robbie Munden checks on the condition of two “victims,” Carol Bowles
and Tre Powers, trapped in a vehicle during Saturday’s drill.
Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
First Responders and firefighters treat “wounded”
victims at a medical triage station set up near the command
post during an elaborate disaster drill Saturday. Seen are
firefighter Casey Bradshaw and head wound “victim” Jean
Council considers chief
Copyright © 2009, MediaOne, L.L.C.