Emergency response plans examined

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tabletop exercise gives important training opportunity

A tabletop exercise took place at the Putnam County Emergency Operations Center recently. Facilitator David Perkins with Mission Ready Consulting Inc. is pictured here with some of the attendees who participated in a hypothetical tornado disaster in Putnam County.

GREENCASTLE -- The Putnam County Emergency Operations Center was recently the site of a tabletop exercise featuring tornado disasters in the area.

Participating personnel included law enforcement, health and hospital, transportation, 911, fire, planning, volunteer coordinators and others.

The idea behind the tabletop exercise is to use a hypothetical situation and look at the probable response to it.

These are done in informal, stress-free environments to elicit constructive discussion as participants examine and resolve problems based on an existing operational plan.

"It helps to identify where the plans need to be refined. We don't use equipment, resources are not deployed and time pressures not introduced. It's the simplest type of exercise to conduct as far as planning, preparation and coordination of a disaster," explained Putnam County Emergency Director Kim Hyten.

On this particular day, a tornado disaster was chosen as the most likely scenario to occur in this county.

Event facilitator David Perkins with Mission Ready Consulting tossed out statistics on this area of the state including the fact that Putnam County has had 10 tornados in 10 years.

Surrounding counties like Hendricks have seen 25 twisters; Montgomery, 17; and Morgan, 18. Owen ties with Putnam for the same number, while Clay has had seven and Parke, eight, in the same time frame.

The exercise included four units. The first gives a scenario, including a tornado watch turning into a warning. It then turns into a verified sighting near Mansfield.

According to the scenario, dispatch receives reports of trees down and scattered power outages in and around Reelsville and Manhattan with debris blocking lanes of state highways and county roads.

Damages build as a tornado hits the ground near Clinton Falls, eventually hitting the Glenn Flint Lake area.

A deputy gives a preliminary assessment of 37 injured, nine dead and several people trapped at Glen Flint.

This leads into discussion of how to communicate with a tower out at Putnamville, how to move equipment into the area when there is only one road and it is blocked with trees and debris.

In the meantime, twisters continue to touch down around the county, with another hit taking place in Limedale, causing a hazardous situation.

Law enforcement is stretched between helping firemen and EMTs who are usually first responders, securing damaged areas, keeping parents calm at schools where children have been held and providing security for medical facilities who are inundated with casualties walking in, being driven in and transported by emergency personnel.

"This type of exercise shows us how limited our resources really are," Hyten told the group.

Federal and state help can take days. In this particular event, Terre Haute was hit earlier and Danville was in the path of more tornadic weather.

"You could easily be on your own for 72 hours," said Perkins.

With these thoughts in mind, the group laid out priorities. Number one being life safety issues. Trees stop fire trucks and ambulances, but responders still go in on foot to begin triage and assessment.

They are hindered by radio contact issues and not having enough emergency help yet. They discover they may need to fall back to high band radios to have immediate communications.

The importance of Ham operators is noted. How to use the COAD (Communities Active in Disasters) as a resource is discussed as well as looking at the State Department of Natural Resources and other groups.

For volunteers such as firemen and EMTs, their first priority is taking care of their family and then getting to the scene.

How to procure lights at the scene, finding fuel for emergency vehicles and determining how to communicate are all issues that were looked at during the exercise.

"Basically, it is all about making decisions and setting priorities," explained Perkins.

Things like asking the local hospitals to provide their own security during a disaster makes a large difference in having enough manpower on the scene.

At the end of the meeting, evaluation forms were given to the participants. The forms asked them to list what they see as the top three issues and identifying corrective steps to address the issues identified and giving it a value of high, medium or low. Participants were also asked to describe the corrective steps that each agency should take and assign responsibility for each action item as well as a list of policies, plans and procedures that need to be reviewed, revised or developed.

Hyten and others plan to look over the county's emergency disaster plan to make sure objectives and needs are met. A new plan incorporating all the state and federal ESFs will be developed in about 60 days.

"Being prepared is the best thing we can do and we can only do that if we have everyone's cooperation from the utility companies to the volunteer efforts," said Hyten.

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  • would been nice to list names of people who attended uh? let us all know who is looking out for the people of putman co.

    -- Posted by BORNINPUTCO on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 8:23 AM
  • The real problem is they have these workshops during the day when most 'volunteers'(includes most Put. Co. Fire Depts) are at their paying jobs. So, a list of names would not be very beneficial.

    -- Posted by BGreader on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 8:32 AM
  • regarding BGreader reply, it is a credit to the "volunteers" who couldn't make it simply because they are volunteers and this county can not supply full time employment to those people for their courageous and unselfish effort. but i don't think that is a reason to discredit the others who were able to make it and put out the effort as well for the rest of us. i'm suprised no comment on my misspelling of Putnam too. so i say thanks to those who did show up as well as those who were not able to.

    -- Posted by BORNINPUTCO on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 12:22 PM
  • But why does it matter if we credit those who attended?

    -- Posted by Eagle78 on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 5:01 PM
  • It would take about 5 minutes for Mitch Daniels to activate the National Guard, and a good number of our national guardsmen live here in Greencastle the response time would be minimum. Natural and man-made disasters are supposed to be the 'modern' mission of the Guard after all. All this talk of it taking "days" for help to reach us is little more than fear-mongering.

    -- Posted by miraclemom3 on Wed, Oct 21, 2009, at 6:29 PM
  • antone, what in the heck does this have to do with obama? i would bet that he hssn't read anything all the way through, that is why he is having the problems he is having with everything he touches.

    -- Posted by magoo55 on Thu, Oct 22, 2009, at 7:50 AM
  • There is alot of equipment stored at the armory, though not as much as there was before the budget-demanded cuts of the last 10 years. The vehicles are on constant ready status and have been used in disasters as recent as last summer's flooding. There are also bedding, food rations and the building has its own emergency generators. With activated soldiers on hand there would be personnel trained in emergency medical treatment as well as supplies for treating injuries from cut fingers to electric shock, childbirth, and missing/hanging limbs as well as shrapnel injuries, which doesn't just mean bullet/bomb type wounds but also includes typical injuries suffered in tornadoes such as flying debris becoming imbedded in human bodies.

    I fully agree everyone should be prepared to take care of their own, but an article stating that help would be 3 days away in an emergency? That I take issue with when it's so completely false.

    -- Posted by miraclemom3 on Thu, Oct 22, 2009, at 1:47 PM
  • Woah Mircaclemom3 what are you on about? Im pretty sure most of those national gaurdsmen are not Indiana EMT Certified. So I am almost 100% sure they arnt allowed to touch civilians. As far as the other stuff. It would take about 3 days for a response from the national gaurd, because they will not roll unless they have supplies, they have man power, they have support services in place, they have the bureaucracy delt with, and they have the logistics in order. And whose to say they would stay in putnam county? Look at the flood. They had to goto Martinsville. So they go where they are ordered to go. ;)

    -- Posted by Eagle78 on Thu, Oct 22, 2009, at 9:37 PM
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