Mock drills serve vital purposes

Fire departments practice their skills on a regular basis, but it isn’t too often that more than a dozen fire departments come together to participate in a mass mock disaster.

The Brooke County Emergency Management Agency put together a drill last weekend that gave firefighters, emergency medical personnel and staff at Weirton Medical Center a chance to put into action what they have learned.

Hopefully, area emergency workers will never have to put into play their mock disaster drill training in a real situation, but that is what those drills are all about.

House fires and vehicle accidents are common occurrences area emergency workers are asked to respond to. But it isn’t common to have an active shooter entering a chemical plant, firing shots that result in a tanker truck exploding and injuring a group of school students on a field trip. Such was the script for last Saturday’s mock disaster.

Emergency workers practice table-top exercises, in which they sit around a table and discuss how to respond to disasters. But it takes on new meaning when they have to don their firefighting jackets and face actors portraying school children.

West Liberty University drama students became the school students to put some reality into the drill. They even put on makeup to simulate facial injuries. They cried out that their friends were hurt. They were loaded into ambulances and taken to Weirton Medical Center to be put through a decontamination tent.

Some even had their clothes cut off on a rather cool, rainy Saturday morning.

Bob Fowler, Brooke County Emergency Management Agency director, was pleased with how the drill went. All the patients were loaded and taken to the hospital within 45 minutes. The firefighters knew a drill was happening so their response was a little bit faster. The decontamination tent at Weirton Medical Center already was erected by Colliers volunteer firefighters.

But even though the surprise of a mass injury situation wasn’t there, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and staff at Weirton Medical Center did their best to put their training into action.

Fowler said such drills should be held once or twice a year on a regular basis.

Now everyone who participated in the drill can sit back and look at the wrongs during the drill so the next time it will be right.

It is a lot to expect from volunteers at the fire departments but, thankfully, they are dedicated to serving their communities.