An exercise in training: Local agencies train at Hunter Plant
|The Emery County emergency team trains at the Hunter Plant.|
It is said that practice makes perfect so that is the premise behind recent mock disaster training at the Hunter Power Plant near Castle Dale.
On Oct. 10, a full scale emergency drill took place which involved the Emery County Sheriff's Office, Hunter Plant, Castleview Hospital, Region six hazardous material technicians, Emery County fire department, Emery County Emergency Medical Service, Utah National Guard and the Southeastern Department of Health. The Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security acted as a support agency.
The exercise was held as a training and an activity to gauge the level of preparedness of the local agencies to respond in the the event of a terrorist attack. In the mock disaster, a disgruntled employee had entered the plant and detonated a bomb in the control room area of Hunter 3.
It was announced over the intercom system that all employees must evacuate the plant which they did. They gathered in the parking lot in an assigned spot. The plant safety managers did a head count to determine who was missing. The initial blast had injured eight people.
The fire department arrived on the scene and put the fire out. The EMTs were then led into the building to work on the injured. The EMTs were to work on a triage assessment of the victims to determine the order they would be treated. It was later determined the initial response team would have brought the victims out to the EMT personnel and the EMTs would not be allowed into the building for safety concerns to the EMS team.
The EMTs treated the mock patients and they were hypothetically transported to Castleview Hospital for treatment for their injuries.
In other action the Utah National Guard emergency response team was on hand to give training on hazardous chemical detection. They had a car set-up which contained a hazardous chemical bomb. The team showed local emergency response team members how to test the ground and water around the vehicle.
The National Guard response team has a state of the art mobile chemical lab where they can test chemicals and determine the best clean-up procedure. SSG. Chuck Jorgenson works with the mobile lab. The teams also participated in decontamination activities.
The response time for the National Guard to travel to Emery County after notification would be about 3.5 hours if they were on duty. If everyone was scattered, then it could take 4.5 hours before they could arrive to help in an emergency.
|The Emery County emergency response team learns how to detect contaminents in and around a mock car bomb.|
Help from Carbon County would be 45 minutes to an hour away depending on where the personnel were in the event of an emergency.
The Hunter plant has an emergency team called HERT which stands for Hunter Emergency Response Team. This team worked alongside the personnel from the Emery County Emergency Response Team. The HERT team knows the plant layout and the workings of a power plant and will be the first on scene in the event of an actual emergency.
The morning after the mock disaster exercise, the teams met to evaluate the exercise and to see where improvements could be made.
Sgt. Martin Wilson was one of the organizers of the event. He said, "When something happens we will call for help quick and not wait to be overwhelmed."
One of the problems encountered was the inability to hear inside the power plant on the turbine floor where the mock victims were staged. Communication with the radio was very difficult and you couldn't hear. The plant safety manager, Travis Larsen helped plan the scenario also. He indicated they use ear muffs over an ear bud to communicate within the plant. It was mentioned the mock victims weren't tagged to indicate the extent of their injury. The fire department acted quickly to put out the fire and the law enforcement officers were spread out around every corner to find the subject.
Capt. Kyle Ekker from the sheriff's office was the incident commander for the event. He said the command post simulated phone calls out to the hospital, bomb squad and other mock calls for assistance. He talked with the Colonel from the National Guard and he was able to give useful information to the local unit. "An event of this type is confusing, but we learned a lot that is valuable by this exercise," said Ekker.
The incident commander takes control of an emergency situation and all other supervisors report directly to incident command. The chain of command in this scenario had its breakdowns and miscommunication with who was in charge. Is it the plant personnel or the law enforcement? Sheriff LaMar Guymon is first in command in any criminal action taken within Emery County.
An incident log of the scenario was kept by sheriff's office employee Kathy Jensen. She recorded everything as it transpired and will compile that information into an after report.
Larsen said, "We appreciate everyone coming to our facility. The professionalism shown by the plant personnel, local agencies and the military was very impressive. The communication broke down and that was difficult. Our plant personnel are well trained to respond in a lot of incidents. But, a more massive scenario; we're not prepared. It was a good learning experience."
Lt. Col. Kevin Nuccitelli from the National Guard said, "We never want to show up on a site and have that be the first time we meet you. It's important to get out and meet the local people. We enjoyed the opportunity to be here and give some training with good results."
Maj. Ben Morris said he ran the clock and passed information along up and down the line. They will also pass information up the military chain of command as far as the national level. "Other agencies above us can help. We have incredible power to solve your issues."
|Emery High students portray injured workers at the scenario.|
CPT. Richard Shuck said how important it is to do these types of trainings so you become more familiar with your people and can tell when they are in trouble and need help when they are suited up and on oxygen in the Level A suits.
Capt. Craig Bello stressed, "We are here to assist you, not to take over. We work for you. Maj. Jared Gailey spent some time with Capt. Ekker and Sgt. Wilson. This is a small community and it's helpful to think ahead. You're not deep. If something big happens, you have limited time. Part of the reason we are here is to make you deep. This is the most organizations I have seen in a rural area coming together for this type of training. Focus on your training and the what ifs. Keep up the training."
SFC. Joe Parker said the communication was challenging, with two entry teams and 15 radios it was hard to keep track but great training for him. He said he was pulled in a lot of ways, and must work to prioritize. He said he can help with any communication problems.
Sheriff Guymon said he was proud of how everything went and one of the hardest things for him is not to interfere as the scenario plays out. "We have very competent firemen and EMTs. You receive training on every call. There is never a rehearsal whenever you are called out you don't know what you will find."
The need for interagency training was pointed out and the volunteer fire departments mentioned their problem with getting help out during the daytime hours.
Sgt. Wilson said, "We need to take this information and put it into our plan to determine where we go from here. We need to move up a level, evaluate the problems and move on."