An exercise in preparedness

By Jason E. Silvers
Fort Scott Tribune – January 25, 2017

Photo by Jason E. Silvers. Fort Scott Fire Chief Paul Ballou, center, makes a comment during a tabletop planning exercise Monday morning in the Emergency Operations Center at the Bourbon County Courthouse.

Photo by Jason E. Silvers. Fort Scott Fire Chief Paul Ballou, center, makes a comment during a tabletop planning exercise Monday morning in the Emergency Operations Center at the Bourbon County Courthouse.

Representatives of several area entities discussed planning for a possible tornado event in Bourbon County during a mock tabletop exercise Monday morning.

Discussion at the workshop centered around coordination and planning among several agencies in the event a destructive tornado and severe flooding were to hit the area, causing widespread damages.

Participants included representatives of the city and county, Mercy Hospital, Fort Scott fire and police departments, rural fire departments, the county dispatch center, Bourbon County Public Health, the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office, the Bourbon County Emergency Management office, and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Bourbon County Emergency Manager William Wallis, who wrote and coordinated the exercise and led discussion, said he was pleased with the outcome.

“We had a great turnout, that’s number one,” he said. “And number two, I think it went perfect … just from start to finish, it went really, really well. There was a lot of good feedback and questions … there was little I could see that needs a great amount of improvement. It was as smooth as I could think of.”

Participants discussed the possible scenario, which was broken up into nine modules during the exercise with participants discussing key issues and then posing questions. Topics of the modules included the need for volunteers and equipment, handling mass casualties, a need for tetanus shots due to debris, and a designated emergency shelter, downed power lines and fires, just to name a few.

Participants also talked about the cost of such a disaster, and receiving state and federal financial assistance, as well as backing up resources, chain of command, and most important of all, “safety and security,” Wallis said.

The scenario, according to information from Wallis, involved a tornado that struck on a warm, 75-degree morning and touched down on the south end of Fort Scott, destroying multiple communities and creating a tremendous amount of debris. Several family members were reported missing, injured or deceased, as well as lost pets.

According to the scenario, there was a fear that several people were trapped due to the storm’s intensity. Widespread power outages, as well as power lines across roadways, were reported. The National Weather Service predicted local flooding due to the large amounts of rain that had fallen prior to the tornado. The NWS predicted rainfall in excess of 10 inches within the next 12 to 24 hours. With additional heavy amounts of rain, wind gusts of up to 50 mph were also predicted.

Wallis said when conducting such an exercise, using the worst possible scenario can be used to plan and “identify areas that were a little short.”

“And maybe some of the situations we had might have been a little larger than life, such as all the rain after the tornado, and the destruction, but it made people think,” Wallis said.

Wallis said it was discovered during the sessions that there are “small issues of coordination but not bad.”

 

Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
http://www.ksffa.com
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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