Emergency crews to face terrorism test in drill here

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 9, 2002

With the events of Sept. 11 and other terrorist acts still freshin people’s minds, emergency officials are making plans for aterrorism event in Lincoln County, and they want citizens to beprepared.

As part of annual emergency preparedness training, King’sDaughters Medical Center, Lincoln County Civil Defense and otheremergency officials are planning a “terrorism-related event” asthis year’s drill. They expressed concerns Wednesday about publicreaction when the drill happens.

“We want the general public to be ready for it and know that itis a drill and not the real thing,” said Lincoln County CivilDefense Director Clifford Galey

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Jane Jones, nurse manager at KDMC, agreed.

“When we do this, we don’t want to alarm the community,” shesaid

Emergency officials did not say when the event, which willsimulate a “Code Black” emergency, is planned and only describedthe timetable as “in the near future.” Galey said the planningsecrecy is a necessary part of being ready for the drill.

“If we let everybody know when it’s going to be and where it’sgoing to be, we won’t know how they’re going to react when it’s thereal thing,” Galey said.

Galey and Mike Walker, KDMC director of plant operations, saidthe drill’s emphasis will be on readiness in case of a terrorismevent. Walker said the drill is necessary for hospital evaluationand for agencies that deal with the civil defense.

“It covers the requirements here as well as the civil defense,”Walker said.

All emergency response agencies from the hospital to lawenforcement to fire departments are expected to be involved in someway, officials said.

The drill will include mock victims with a varieties ofinjuries, including deaths. It will cover all aspects of emergencyresponses, including the potential for road or street closures.

“It’s a test of our disaster plan to see that it really workswhen needed,” Jones said.

While the event is only a test, officials pointed to thepotential for citizens to want to get involved. They said they didnot want that to happen and added that citizens should not call 911during the event.

“We just don’t want panic in the streets of Brookhaven,” Jonessaid.

Radio traffic related to the event will state that a drill isunder way. Otherwise, though, it will be treated as a realemergency.

“We treat it like it’s the real thing even though we know fromthe get-go that it’s a drill,” Jones said.

Emergency officials will conduct an evaluation of theirresponses after the event.

Jones said Mississippi Emergency Management Agencyrepresentatives attended last year’s drill and gave it a goodreview. Last year’s drill centered around a chemical explosion atthe Delphi Packard plant.

While the drill went well, officials acknowledged somedifficulties in communications between people inside the plant andthose outside. Walker said learning about problems like that duringa drill would be beneficial in the event of an actual emergency inthe future.

“I think it’s helped a great deal in the last few years,” Walkersaid of the drills and evaluation activity.

Jones said officials hope to keep public confusion andinconvenience to a minimum while they test the thoroughness oftheir emergency response plans.

“It’s an inconvenience, but it’s a necessary part of a planningso we can do it when the time comes,” Jones said.