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Learn by doing in disasters

Officials establish skills at mock emergency drill

August 4, 2012
By Melissa Toothman Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

A recent mock emergency drill at the Barbour County fairgrounds helped participating officials in 10 counties better prepare for emergency situations.

Cindy Hart, Barbour County office of Emergency Management interim director and coordinator exercise coordinator for the drill, said the training exercise took eight months to plan. Participating officials received credit toward recertification through their involvement with the drill, which took place Sunday.

For the program, an emergency scenario allowed emergency officials to learn how to use equipment, care for injured victims, create a news release and more through instructional classes and demonstrations.

Article Photos

The Inter-Mountain photos by Melissa Toothman
Participants attending a triage class learn how to prioritize and care for patients injured in a mass-accident scenario Sunday at the Region 4 2012 Mock Emergency Exercise at the Barbour County Fairgrounds. The class was given by Tracey Corbin, Emergency Medical Service program director at Pierpont Community College and Technical Center. Additional photos are available online at

"The more you practice, the more you become proficient with this," Hart said.

Among the available classes were a triage class, bath salts class, landing zone class, Zumro inflatable shelter installation, disaster training, interoperability radio training, law enforcement hazmat and other courses.

In the day's primary scenario, officials pretended an accident occurred on U.S. 250 near Philip Barbour High School with a vehicle that appeared to contain an unidentified hazardous material. The driver died in the accident and couldn't provide information about the material.

Also, for the purpose of the drill, officials devised a mock soccer practice at the high school where some athletes reported symptoms that may have been associated with the mock accident near the school. Plus, the exercise included a cement truck that flipped on U.S. 250 and caused minor injuries. The mock incidents were devised to have occurred during a wind storm.

"These are real-life scenarios. This is very realistic," Hart said.

The objectives of the day were to test and operate the incident-command radio interface system, set up a Zumro shelter, register and track individuals using the shelter and mass care services, demobilize the shelter, give media interviews about the scenario and notify the community of mass care services.

"If we were in an emergency situation like a month ago today ... it's nice to know how to use this way before you need it," Hart said, referring to the severe June 29 storm that affected nearly all of West Virginia and other parts of the region.

While the inflatable Zumro shelter was up, officials practiced hooking up a heating system to the shelter.

"I never hooked up the heater before, and it gets cold in Tucker County in the winter," said Tiffany Auvil, administrative assistant for the Tucker County Office of Emergency Management.

Participants had the opportunity to learn how to treat patients with suspension trauma and to identify signs and symptoms to provide care and treatment to patients abusing bath salts. Kevin Keplinger of the West Virginia State Police conducted an educational hazmat course for various situations.

Within the mock scenario, other instructors devised scenarios specific to their educational courses.

"I thought it was very well conducted and very informative," Bill Duranti, president of the Upshur County Community Emergency Response Teams, said about the triage class, which was conducted by Tracey Corbin, Emergency Medical Service program director at Pierpont Community College and Technical Center.

In Corbin's triage class, a scenario was devised where an aircraft pilot thought that an area of the fairgrounds was flat enough for a landing but ended up crashing on uneven ground.

The victims of the crash, gray inflatable dummies, were strewn across the ground. Corbin assigned roles to the participating class members and helped them to understand those roles. Susan Duranti was assigned as triage officer, with the responsibility of quickly prioritizing which victims were in need of the most urgent care.

Each of the victims had information attached to them to help determine their condition.

"It helped that the instructor was very knowledgeable," said Susan Duranti, Upshur County CERT secretary.

Region 4 encompasses Gilmer, Lewis, Braxton, Upshur, Webster, Barbour, Randolph Pocahontas, Tucker and Pendleton counties. Many officials from the 10 counties participated. Equipment and resources for the drill were pooled from various counties, allowing representatives from one county to be instructed with materials that could be borrowed from another county.

"Let's do the most for everybody for the amount we get," said Patrick Gray, Tucker County Department of Emergency Management director.



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