Lessons learned in ‘disaster’

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Lincoln County Civil Defense and Delphi Packard officials sayemergency personnel responded well to a mock explosion at the plantTuesday, although there were some communications issues thatdeserve attention.

“It was a real good drill,” said Ken Harlan, Delphi plantmanager. “We reviewed things we did well and areas where we need toimprove.”

Tuesday morning’s drill simulated an explosion in the plant’snitrogen generator, which is used for its parts moldingoperation.

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The mock explosion resulted in a number of simulated injuries,ranging from burns and broken bones to a death, said CliffordGaley, civil defense coordinator. All city and county emergencyresponse agencies, with the exception of the highway patrol, wereinvolved.

Under OSHA requirements, Harlan said Delphi is required to checkemergency response. Also, King’s Daughters Medical Center and civildefense must check emergency response measures under guidelinesgoverning their activities.

“We do these things so we can find out where the problems areand try to correct them,” Galey said.

Harlan and Galey mentioned some communications-related itemsthat were detected Tuesday.

“I think we all realized communication is key to making responsesuccessful,” Harlan said, mentioning in-plant communications andemergency command center location issues.

Galey agreed.

“It’s a minor thing that could turn into a major thing in a realdisaster,” Galey said about communications.

Galey explained that there was some dispatch confusion on how tohandle the situation Tuesday since it was a drill. Also, emergencyofficials discovered that their radio equipment did not work insidethe Packard building.

“We have to step back, look at that and see how we can make itbetter,” Galey said.

Galey said officials improvised and runners were used tocommunicate needs from personnel inside the building to thoseoutside. He speculated that the radio malfunction was due tocomputer equipment and interference related to the large metalbuilding.

Packard is not the only business housed in a large metalbuilding, Galey pointed out.

“We want to look at that and fix it not only for Packard, butothers with large metal buildings,” Galey said.

Galey said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency evaluatorswere on hand and were pleased with how the drill was handled. Galeyappreciated the participation and cooperation demonstrated betweenthe city and county emergency personnel.

“Everybody did their jobs,” Galey said. “We were verypleased.”