Emergency responders show full scale explosion exercise

The object of many exercises is to prepare for the unknown, and a Dunn County Full-Scale Oxy Explosion Exercise held last weekend did just that.

By Pat Ratliff

 Posted August 16, 2103

“We did this as a full scale mock response in the courthouse parking lot,” Denise Brew, Dunn County Emergency Manager/911 Coordinator, said.

The exercise was a full emergency response scenario involving a hypothetical explosion involving multiple casualties.

Over 50 people took part in the exercise, including Dunn County emergency responders, Killdeer Ambulance, Dunn County Sheriff’s department, fire departments and members of nearby emergency services from surrounding communities that would normally give assistance in a major emergency.

There were also “victim” volunteers, who wore injury make –up to stimulate injuries, which emergency personnel treated at the “scene.”

As the scenario ramped up, personnel ran into various potential problems they might encounter; 12 injured from the explosion; a simple call for additional ambulances found those from outlying areas already busy; in addition to injuries occurring during the explosion, the fire from the explosion spread from the drill-site to surrounding areas; Killdeer ambulance service having to transport burn victims (going to Minneapolis by fixed-wing plane); St. Joseph’s Hospital becoming overwhelmed. All the problems were dealt with as they came up during the scenario, which was kept secret from attendees before the event.

As each problem was encountered, those personnel dealing with that part of the exercise had to respond to the changes in the scenario.

Were there problems? Yes – which is the point of the exercise. Better to encounter those in a mock exercise and learn how to handle them before a real event happens. The learning curve seemed quite high during the exercise.

Was the exercise successful? You bet!

“The biggest reason to call this a success is that everyone left learning something, as well as learning about some of the others you met,” Brew said. “If we have an emergency, it’s good to know about the people you’ll be working with.

“I can’t even describe how much this exercised helped; it brought insight to everyone, showing us how big something like this can be. Our chances of that happening are very high with all the oil rigs we have around here.

Brew said a big lesson everyone learned was “We all need to hit the ground running when something like this occurs.”

Another lesson – “We have lots of resources available,” Brew said. “We don’t always have to do it all ourselves.

“We learned we need to voice when we need assistance. There are other mutual aid resources around, plus county and state aid that can be called upon.”

End result of the exercise was that Killdeer area residents have a better trained group of emergency responders available, if and when a major catastrophe occurs.



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