2008-09-18 / Front Page

Red Cross drill simulates island disaster preparedness

By Sam Bari

Bruce Sundlin is processed by Anne Tighe upon arriving at the Melrose school emergency shelter. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten Bruce Sundlin is processed by Anne Tighe upon arriving at the Melrose school emergency shelter. Photo by Andrea von Hohenleiten The town held its second simulated disaster drill Saturday at the Melrose Avenue School emergency shelter to test emergency personnel for readiness in case of a real emergency. The event was part of a nationwide drill that took place at emergency centers across the country.

The exercise was planned to test the full range of domestic incidence management procedures, which included media relations and public information, in response to the National Response Plan. Since the exercise was part of a national drill, the Red Cross involved many groups that would take part in a mass emergency, should one occur. The National Weather Service, Department of Defense and the Federal Emergency Management Agency all worked together to make the drill as realistic as possible.

According to Bill Kearns, the controller/evaluator for the exercise, the town was being tested for a "general" non-specific disaster, although the exercises appeared to be centered around hurricanes or major storms.

"What we do is inject scenarios to the shelter manager like, the bridges to the island are either wiped out or are not accessible and a person has to be evacuated by helicopter to a mainland hospital. How would you handle that? Then I see how the team responds," Ke- arns said.

Another one of the scenarios entailed directing displaced people to a shelter at the fire station when the Melrose Avenue facility was full. Kearns also tested emergency personnel on operating without power and using a back-up generator, as well as communicating without the use of cell phones.

John McCauley, the shelter manager, explained that the facility was designed to offer approximately 75 displaced people with shelter and food for as much as 72 hours due to a disaster like a hurricane. He said that medical personnel would be on hand to either evacuate or attend to people requiring assistance.

McCauley's wife, Joan, was the communications officer. She was assisted by Willy Maclean, who set up his HAMM radio station with several types of radios to keep in contact with the Emergency Operations Center at the police station as well as the Red Cross, fire department and EMS staff who had personnel on sight.

Fire Chief Jim Bryer said that the fire department was responsible for keeping all entrances and exits to the shelter clear and handling safety issues. He was also in charge of the Knocks Box, which had all the keys to the building.

Jamestown Police Officer Scott Sullivan manned the entrance and checked anyone entering the shelter for contraband.

Town Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski handled animal control and set up a kennel for pets that were brought to the shelter during the simulated emergency.

Nancy Ventrone again served as the public information officer to handle the media.

Those having special physical or mental needs were referred to the health clinic that was staffed with nurses. Cots with blankets were set up in the dormitory and special care was taken to keep families together. Toys were provided for children, and the disabled and elderly were given special assistance. All sleeping areas were monitored with security.

Jamestown EMS worker Deanna Pixten and nurse Diane Forest were prepared to handle medical emergency situations and provide assistance as soon as those in need were brought to the shelter.

Town Emergency Management Director and Police Chief Thomas Tighe said everyone performed admirably and that the exercise went very well. The chief said that he anticipated a good report.

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