By Daniel Brunty
The Webster Progress-Times
Local emergency response agencies as well as faculty and students of Eupora High School were put through the test during a county-level emergency disaster preparedness drill that took place Oct. 9 on the school’s campus.
The exercise, which was designed to test the response and reaction by emergency response agencies and evaluate the school’s notification system if a tornado was to hit the county and school, was directed by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
To make the scenario even more realistic, another scenario was staged entailing a chemical spill at Plymouth Tube during the same time the tornado scenario was taking place.
A number of local emergency response agencies were on hand as well as multiple agencies from the surrounding counties.
Faculty and students helped in the exercise, with students being “actors” and faculty performing their duties to assist them during the disaster. The students who participated were acting as if they were injured by the tornado. Some of the students acted as if they were injured critically, some were shaken up with no physical injuries and others were fatalities.
Before the actual scenario took place, the emergency response agencies met for a briefing at the Eupora Community Center to discuss their plan of action and to make sure everyone was on the same page.
The actual scenario began with Eupora High School Principal Laci Knight calling the local 911 service to report that a tornado had touched down on the campus and students were injured. The actors (students) were placed in different areas on campus to simulate an area of injured bodies caused by the tornado.
Emergency response agencies quickly began to arrive on scene and immediately began giving comforting as well as providing medical attention to the “injured” students.
The scenario was realistic, with emergency responders performing their duties to their full capacity. Webster County EMA Director/Fire Coordinator Barry Rushing was pleased with what he saw from the local emergency response units.
“It went well,” Rushing said. “We learned a lot by doing this drill, and will take some corrective actions in the near future. It allows us to learn from our mistakes and gave our agencies some good training in case an emergency hits our county.”
The 911 Center in Mathiston was responsible for all emergency radio and telephone communications during the drill.
The center dispatched EMS, fire and law enforcement to area emergency sites along with helicopters to several locations. McLemore said this was excellent training for 911 staff; in the event of an actual emergency they will be better prepared to meet all the needs of Webster County.
Once the drill ended, all the emergency response agencies met at the Community Center, where MEMA Exercise Officer Todd DeMuth told them what he saw was good and what things could be worked on. DeMuth was overall pleased with what he saw during the scenario, especially how the local agencies not only provided medical assistance to the students, but also provided words of comfort and caring during their rough time.
The debriefing wrapped up with lunch for all the emergency response agencies and brief goodbyes. Local response agencies are hoping that with this drill having taken place, they will be prepared to assist and help the residents of Webster County if a disaster should ever occur.