Mock Disaster Prepares For The Worst - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

05/24/05

Mock Disaster Prepares For The Worst

They are doing their best to be ready for the worst. On Tuesday, a host of local, state, and military emergency responders took part in a mock disaster drill in Vancleave.

The scenario for Life Saver 2005 was a terrorist attack on an oil refinery. Officials wanted to see how fast responders could get treatment to hundreds of victims.

If you used your imagination, you could picture the smoke bellowing from an oil refinery just after a terrorist attack. Although the first inclination may be to rush in to help victims, Jackson County's Hazmat team must be careful.

Butch Loper/Civil Defense Director

"They were what we call the decontamination team. They were taking the chemicals that were sprayed onto people by the explosion are decontaminated prior to being taken into vehicles and into hospitals so they do not contaminate those vehicles and the hospitals."

In the mock scenario, 200 people were either hurt or killed. Dawn Hitchings volunteered to portray one of the victims.

"I've never done anything like this before," she said. "It's scary to think that something like this could happen in real life."

On-scene medics had to make life and death decisions like who would get immediate attention and who would wait. Before being taken to local hospitals, each victim's information was stored.

Jay O'Donnell works with California-based Disaster Management Solutions. He explained how the system operates.

"They put a triage tag next to the victim or around their neck. There is a bar code on the tag which uniquely identifies the patient and then we use the scanner to scan that, much like tracking a Fed Ex package."

By pooling their resources everyone from ambulance workers to military staff hopes to save lives.

Master Sgt. Scott Thresher of Keesler Air Force Base said "It's important to be ready for this because you never know. We're looking at potential soft targets in the state of Mississippi."

He said the Justice Department considers ports, oil refineries and plants to be soft targets.

There was also a disaster exercise held at the Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport.

by Danielle Thomas

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