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GTRA disaster drill debriefing shows few issues

October 28, 2011

By STEVEN NALLEY
citybeat@bellsouth.net

Blood doesn’t have to be real to leave stains.
Eighteen East Mississippi Community College nursing students were covered in fake blood when they acted as victims in Golden Triangle Regional Airport’s Triennial Disaster Drill. On Friday, East Oktibbeha County Fire Department Assistant Chief Darrin Weber said some of that fake blood ended up on his team’s suits.
“What did those EMCC students use for fake blood?” Weber asked. “We’re having a tough time getting it out of our suits. They’re brand new.”
Leaders of the emergency response agencies who participated in the Triennial Disaster Drill gathered for a debriefing Friday at GTRA, and while they did discover a few minor glitches, they declared the drill a success.
Mike Hainsey, GTRA executive director, said he was grateful to the agencies for the work they had put in, and he was confident the human factors at the root of the minor issues could be worked out.
“We found that, in general, everything was a success,” Hainsey said. “There are a few areas we need to work on, but that’s to be expected.”
Weber said one issue was his department’s inability to connect with the statewide 911 frequency, an issue he thought had been worked out before the drill. Without the statewide frequency, Weber said, EOVFD cannot tell on-site responders they are coming or find out from responders what additional EOVFD equipment may be needed.
“You’re going in blind or in the dark, trying to figure out what you’re doing,” Weber said. “I’ve got a couple of people working on that aspect right now.”
Mark Ward, Columbus Fire and Rescue battalion chief, said he wanted to give credit to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle for keeping track of the victims.
“The numbers came out correct as to who was transported where,” Ward said. “That was a big deal. Communications this time were better than they have been in the past.”
Sheri Watcher, director of Lowndes County 911, said some of her dispatchers were interested in the possibility of a nighttime drill with GTRA in the future.
“Most of our exercises are done during the day,” Watcher said. “This would just give our dispatchers who are on night shift to get training during an exercise.”
Richard Holloway, BMHGT paramedic training officer, said his paramedic team was not dispatched until 20 minutes into the drill, but that would cause problems in the event of a real disaster.
“We monitor the fire department radios, so we would have known the accident happened. We would have responded, but for the purposes of the actual exercise, we waited until we were actually dispatched,” Holloway said. “Overall, 911 did a fantastic job, and the exercise was a huge success.”

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