HOW READY ARE WE?

By Kevin Fox

The Clark County Health Department hosted a Tabletop exercise on Tuesday, May 27 for the purpose of testing Clark County’s emergency capabilities in the event a severe weather emergency (in this case a tornado) hit Kahoka. The exercise was held at Steve’s Family Dining, with attendees coming from many of Clark County Emergency services including Clark County Ambulance, LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Committee), Kahoka / Clark County Fire, and the Clark County Health Department. The primary focus of the training was to see how emergency personnel could prepare, respond and recover from such a disaster. The facilitators of the exercise were Gayle McCurdy RN and Ron Stewart – Emergency Planner, both of Adair County. Also addressing the group was Dave Garrison Mass Care Coordinator of NE Missouri with the Homeland Security.
The exercise began with the scenario of a forecast of severe thunderstorms to hit northeast, Missouri on Tuesday, May 13. Late on May 12, the forecasts increase the chances of severe storms to hit on the following morning. The exercise continued with a tornado warning being issued at 8:30 a.m. and residents are being advised to seek cover.
It was at this point that the following questions were asked of those in attendance:
·Where would you be typically located on a Tuesday morning at 8:30?
·With the anticipation of tornadic activity, are there any special activities that are initiated in potential preparation of an emergency?
The exercise continued with the tornado hitting Kahoka at approximately 9:00 a.m. and has damaged the schools and power lines are down everywhere, communication by telephone has been sketchy and cell phone towers in the region are not working for some reason. And by 9:15 the tornado is gone, two of the schools have received heavy damage and many parents and grandparents are attempting to get to the school to get their children.
From this scenario, more questions are asked of those in attendance, such as:
Ambulance:
·What is your typical staffing numbers during a normal Tuesday?
·What type of plan do you have to increase your staffing capabilities?
·With the above information (schools, nursing homes, etc. damaged) what options do you have for medical care if you get a surge of more than 150 casualties?
The scene worsened from there with a clock running as to how things were progressing and how those responding would deal with this disaster and the other things that go along with it such as housing, triage, where to take those who are hurt in Kahoka, if the storm also hit Keokuk or Memphis. In the time line were also major problems of flu breaking out in the mass housing complex where a great many of the dislocated were staying. All in all it was a very informative exercise giving those attending a great deal to consider. But in truth those questions were things that every member of the community needs to consider and think about. For example how well is your family prepared for an emergency? Clark County emergency personnel in attendance were very knowledgeable about steps they would need to take in answer to such a disaster and the problems associated with it. Of course the biggest problem associated with such a disaster was simply the sheer number of injured and the amount of devastation, something which has become all too real for the Midwest this spring.
The three steps to prepare for an emergency are to:
·Create a plan for your family
·Prepare an emergency kit
·Listen for information about what to do and where to go during an emergency.
For more information about planning for emergencies you can stop in at the Clark County Health Department for pamphlets that include an emergency check list, or you can visit the web at www.dhss.mo.gov.