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Earthquake drill puts responders to the test

Earthquake drill puts responders to the test
Earthquake drill puts responders to the test | Weakley County Emergency Management Agency, Jamison Peevyhouse, disaster drill

As a part of the largest locally-run disaster drill held Friday throughout Martin, emergency responders were dispatched to the scene of a mock bridge collapse which caused a school bus transporting refugees to collapse.
While Friday’s weather offered less-than-ideal working conditions, it didn’t phase the emergency responders who volunteered their time and efforts for the disaster drill already in motion.
Weakley County Emergency Management Director Jamison Peevyhouse said his agency and other planners had thrown some harsh curve balls at the group during the disaster event.
This was the largest locally run disaster drill in the history of the county. Emergency responders had no idea the scope of the event or what their role would be coming into the drill Friday morning.
In conjunction with the South East Journalism Conference being hosted by the University of Tennessee at Martin, the emergency management agency planned a full-scale earthquake drill modeled after aftershock events in Haiti and Japan.
As a part of the conference, students from across the Southeast were shuttled to various parts of Martin to not to only witness responders in action, but to test their capabilities at gathering spot news.
Students were not privy to the disaster drill until the very last minute that day.
Peevyhouse said the event would also test emergency responders on handling media relations in the event of a natural disaster.
The disaster drill provided three distinct events. The first simulated a bridge collapse on Skyhawk Parkway, which trapped a school bus transporting refugees to a local shelter.
The second event involved the collapse of a farmhouse on a rural road, which trapped not only four students, but four firefighters on the scene providing rescue efforts. A third event caused structure damage to a staged mental health facility. Patients sustained injuries during the aftershock and some had to be physically led out of the unstable building.
A search and rescue K-9 was also on hand searching for additional mental health patients possibly trapped during the event. The structure was completely blacked out as the mock disaster was simulated as a nighttime event.
Peevyhouse said responders faced a series of challenges, including mass casualties, confined space and technical rescue, collapsed structures, communications failures and working with media outlets.
“We did our best to challenge our responders. There were some harsh scenarios. It was quite amazing. Our responders came out looking like Navy SEAL Team 6. We are not really sure where to go from here,” Peevyhouse added.
The emergency management director said the full scope of the project is still coming to fruition as more details about the drill continue to come into his office. There are plans for an informative session in the near future to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the disaster effort.