Local agencies flirt with disaster at drill

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 28, 1999

If practice makes perfect, Adams&160;County hopes to get as close to it as possible. About 25 local agencies, including the fire department, the police department and ambulance providers, took part in a mock disaster drill Thursday at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

The drill does not harm the public, but helps agencies practice disaster fighting skills and learn ways to improve. &uot;We’ve been doing (mock drills) since ’88,&uot; said Adams County Civil Defense Director George Souderes. &uot;Exercises are designed to have problems and to find deficiencies.&uot;

The drills are crucial to emergency situations but even Souderes admits perfection is probably impossible.

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&uot;We will never get in that particular role,&uot; he said.

The drill is coordinated by the Civil Defense Department and the Local Emergency Preparedness Committee. The committee will critique the drill Nov. 10.

&uot;I thought the exercise went very well,&uot; Souderes said.

But he agrees there are some areas that need improvement, such as improving reaction time at the scene.

The drill involved a simulated chemical spill of an unknown substance. But Souderes thinks it was crucial to the exercise for the substance to be unknown.

&uot;I have seen and heard of a lot of situations where you couldn’t identify that substance right away,&uot; he said.

By 11 a.m. Thursday, a hazardous materials team and at least five ambulances and two fire trucks had arrived at Campus Drive. For the drill, a empty tanker, which was later said to be carrying simulated sulfur dioxide, appeared to hit a school bus carrying about 20 Natchez High ROTC students.

The students pretended to be victims and emergency vehicles came to the scene to treat their mock injuries.

Alex King, a sophomore at Natchez High School, thought the drill was a good idea. &uot;It gets you prepared so you can do what you need to do and not panic,&uot; King said. &uot;And it’s a good experiment for a class project.&uot;

Michael Clayton, a Natchez High senior, said the drill helped him understand what a real accident would be like. &uot;I believe it would be very scary being the victim,&uot; Clayton said. &uot;Being the victim has got to be a bad feeling.&uot;

It also helped him understand why driving safely and yielding for an ambulance is important, he said.

Natchez-Adams County Airport Director Clint Pomeroy was one of several people critiquing the disaster drill.

&uot;Hopefully it will help me if I ever have a crisis at the airport,&uot; he said.