Bridge wreck simulation planned for Tuesday

Published 12:26 am Sunday, October 12, 2014

NATCHEZ — A terrible disaster will occur on the Mississippi River Bridge at Natchez Tuesday, at least in the minds of Miss-Lou law enforcement officials.

The local emergency planning committees of Adams County and Concordia Parish will conduct a drill involving simulated emergency events on the bridge at 10 a.m.

The simulation won’t actually take place on the bridge, and traffic on the bridge won’t be impacted, said Natchez Police Department Capt. Tom McGehee, who is helping organize the event.

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The event, McGehee said, is intended to show how law enforcement agencies on both sides of the river should respond to an emergency situation on the bridge.

“We’re going to simulate a wreck on the bridge, but all that will be done in the parking lot of the visitors’ center,” McGehee said. “There are five other bridges across the Mississippi River, but no one else has thought about testing their responses this way to make sure there is a plan for exactly what to do.”

McGehee said officers would respond to the simulated crash, while attempting to coordinate potential traffic patterns.

“The thing we really want to test is how they will handle the two-lane traffic on the bridge,” McGehee said. “If you have a wreck in the middle of the bridge, how are you going to get down there to rescue everyone, how are you going to get everyone out and what do you do with the rest of the traffic?

“These are all things we want to give our guys a chance to wrap their heads around before we actually get in that situation.”

The officers must also figure out medical transportation plans for a large group of people, McGehee said.

“We’re going to put a lot of the victims on a bus and take them to the hospital, because we also want to see how the hospitals will respond,” McGehee said. “The hospitals have to overload their emergency rooms once a year just to see if they’re prepared for that kind of thing.”

McGehee said the simulated victims of the crash would be students from area high schools who are participating in nursing programs at their schools.

“This also gives them a chance to get some experience of what goes on in the hospitals,” McGehee said. “It’s just good experience and practice for everybody.”

McGehee said the training was sparked by a two-vehicle collision in 2012 on the bridge that resulted in a fatality.