Disaster drill will test Lawrence Co. response

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

MONTICELLO — Lawrence County emergency response personnel willparticipate in their first mock disaster drill in at least the lastquarter century during the week of March 24.

“We’re not giving out the day and time because we want it to beas close to realistic as possible,” said Mayor David Nichols. “But,at the same time, we don’t want people not involved to bealarmed.”

The plan calls for the multi-purpose building at Lawrence CountyHigh School to be struck by a tornado while students and facultyare inside the structure. The tornado will strike the school duringthe day sometime between March 24 and March 28.

All emergency response teams in the county will participate, hesaid, including fire departments, law enforcement officers, thecoroner’s office, Lawrence County Hospital, doctors and town andcounty officials.

High school students and staff will also play a role in thedrill, Nichols said. When the drill is announced, some students andfaculty will be chosen to play casualties, both wounded anddead.

“We’re doing this not only as a training exercise, but also tocheck our readiness,” the mayor said.

The disaster drill is the first in Lawrence County in at least25 years, according to Fire Chief Wayne Harrison, who has servedthe the Monticello Fire Department as a volunteer and full-timefirefighter for more than 22 years.

“We’ve never had a drill like this before, to my knowledge,” hesaid. “I think this is a first ever.”

Although the drill scenario calls for a tornado, Nichols saidthey could have picked just about any natural disaster.

“We can use this exercise to help us with other disasters andevents that may come up,” he said. “There are a lot of things wecan learn that will carry over.”

Harrison, who planned the drill, said he expects the emergencyresponse teams to find some “bumps in the road.” He hopes theywon’t find anything serious, however.

Harrison said he will not prepare for the drill, but willconduct business as usual.

“I’m going to let it go and see what our problems are,” he said.”Hopefully, we’ll be able to do something annually.”

Other counties hold annual drills, he said, and that helps makethem be better prepared when tragedy strikes.