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Weekend disaster drill tests local emergency resources

Sunday's disaster drill tested local emergency officials a little more than originally planned.

drill1.jpg

Rescue workers remove a "victim" from the scene of the mock disaster.

The drill, planned by McDuffie County Emergency Management Agency Director Bruce Tanner and other officials, was supposed to be a simple, staged scene. But -- much like actual emergencies -- something happened that were beyond officials' control.

First, a Boy Scout troop who was supposed to supply victims didn't materialize. Then, actual emergency ambulance calls interrupted the smoothness. Finally, pop-up thunderstorm warnings threatened to make the effort even more trying.

However, the incidents probably mirrored more effectively what would happen in an actual disaster situation.

In the scenario, a county truck with organic phosphate -- an insecticide -- in the back struck a school bus on Salem Road at the railroad tracks near the old Thomson Company.

Roads were blocked as several ambulances and city, county and units from surrounding towns responded.

Three city firefighters, dressed in full protective gear, converged on the accident scene while others were staged at both ends of the road while the situation was analyzed. After the contaminant was identified, the victims and the firefighters had to be decontaminated prior to treatment.

Cindy Prosnak, McDuffie Regional Medical Center infection control coordinator, was playing a 14-year-old passenger who was dusted with the contaminant as well as cuts and bruises.

"As a victim, it seemed like a very long time to sit and wait. It really did," she said.

H. Gary Zgutowicz, a biological terrorism and emergency preparedness training coordinator from the Richmond County Health Department, explained what he felt was the reason for the seemingly long time in resolving the situation.

"Well, it is a long time, but you have to realize firefighters have to make sure of the situation and all factors involved before acting," he said. "Their responsibility is for the safety of the victims, the public, as well as themselves."

Mr. Zgutowicz watched over the scene and checked reaction at the 911 center.

"I was here to make sure the directives the emergency management director established were fulfilled. Bruce Tanner and I talked a couple of days ago, and we went over what he expected to accomplish," he said. "Here on site, we achieved what he wanted, and I will check the emergency operations command at the 911 center to see of their reaction."

The coordinator said from what he observed, the drill was successful.

"I think it went very well. The police cordoned off the area and fire personnel maintained integrity of the site. They looked out for their personal safety and well-being," he said.

Mr. Zgutowicz and Mr. Tanner will meet and discuss the overall operation at a later date. Their findings will be passed on to involved agencies.



Web posted on Thursday, July 1, 2004


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