Regional Disaster Drill

June 14, 2006--Posted at 5:33 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR--A simple call into 911 Wednesday morning triggered a full scale regional area disaster plan. Major damage, severe injuries and luckily it was all just a drill.

"We were having a simulated tornado today. Based on the process that a tornado came through south Jonesboro. We had different sites that were going on simultaneously," said Captain Kevin Miller of the Jonesboro Fire Department.

Three different sites presented different scenarios for fire and police departments in addition to emergency first responders and area hospitals.

"We feel like it is very important that we practice our disaster plan, so when something actually does happen, people have to run through the scenarios and they know what their role is supposed to be," said Regional Disaster Drill Coordinator Kathryn Blackman.

The scenario used was a tornado roaring through the area, tearing down homes and sending numerous people to the hospital. It's an exercise they say is very practical for Region 8.

"We learned a lot of lessons based on what happened in Marmaduke a few months ago and we want to refine our skills here," said Miller.

The regional disaster drill involved 10 counties, 13 hospitals and over 1500 people associated with area agencies.

"The main thing we wanted to test today in the region was our ability to communicate," said Blackman.

According to officials, things ran fairly smooth and it provided a valuable learning experience for future disasters.

"The biggest thing we found out is when something happens in a populated area, like Jonesboro, our resources are going to be spread very thin," said Miller.

These drills usually are put on at least once a year. Although first responders used a tornado based scenario, they say they are prepared for any kind of disaster.

"We use an all-hazards approach, whatever your scenario is for one particular day, it can apply to all the different things that can happen,"said Blackman.

The victims used in today's drill were students from ASU Technical College and summer externs at St. Bernards Medical Center.