Regional Disaster Drill Helps Emergency Workers be Better Prepared

JONESBORO, AR - A multi-county disaster drill was held on Tuesday in Arkansas.  The drill was done simultaneously throughout the region.

For the simulation, an earthquake hits along the new madrid fault line at Marked Tree with damages reaching into Craighead County.

"There are ten counties in north east Arkansas that are participating," said Kathryn Blackman of St. Bernards.

In Jonesboro both NEA Medical Center and St. Bernards are involved in treating patients.  St. Bernards treated would-be patients involved in an ammonia leak at the nestle plant in Jonesboro.  Nursing students and paramedic students serve as patients testing the emergency staff.

"We generally knew we were going to have a disaster drill, but no one knew what the scenario would be or what their involvement would be," said Blackman.

Blackman told K8 News she feels the drill went very smoothly but there are always things they can improve upon.

"We're not only looking at what our response in a disaster would be but how do we prevent things from being as bad as they possibly could be," said Blackman.

At NEA Medical Center a decontamination shower is used to treat patients involved in a hazardous spill.

"We have the portable decontamination tent and the shower.  It takes us about 30 minutes to get set up to handle a disaster like this," said Will Smart of NEA Medical Center.

They can decontaminate about four people an hour.

"We're well prepared to handle an event like this for the size of our facility," said Smart.

For the disaster cell phone towers were down and one of the only methods of communication was a ham radio.

"If we don't work them together, then when something happens no one knows how to communicate," said David Moore, Director of Emergency Services in Craighead County.

The county uses federal grants to purchase equipment to be used during a disaster but they have to know how to use it.  A major part of the drill is to assist the injured, treat them, and return to normal activities and find flaws in the system.

A meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 26 at the Craighead County Judge's office to look over what happened in Tuesday's drill.

While it is crucial for the city, county, and state to have a plan in case of a disaster it is also important for you and your family to have a plan as well.