Disaster drill puts crews to the test - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Disaster drill puts crews to the test

November 30, 2005

Tifton- A meeting at Eastside Baptist Church quickly turned into a disaster scene.

"The building behind me experienced a fire and a major gas explosion. We had multiple victims. We had included in it a partial collapse of the building taking out some firefighters," says Tifton Fire Chief and EMA director Mike Flippo.

Emergency crews from across the county, and even some neighboring areas were called in to help secure the area and rescue injured victims.

"Everything from broken bones to burns, to inhalation, and we simulated that two firefighters were trapped inside during the collapse," Flippo says.

Fortunately, this time the emergency wasn't real, but it easily could have been.

"It could happen in any town, any city in this nation," adds Flippo.

Mock victims were even transported to the hospital where Tift Regional Medical Center staff members practiced their mass patient treatment plans.

"We bring in extra staff and each department is on call the do a different thing whenever we are in a huge emergency like this, whenever it involves numerous patients, so it's a great practice run because nobody knows exactly who's coming in, with what type of injuries so we all get to practice all of our skills," says Stacey Beckham of Tift Regional Medical Center.

Since there is no time to practice during an actual emergency, crews take the exercise seriously, giving them an opportunity to put their skills to the test and learn from their mistakes.

Flippo says, "I think we did fantastic, but that's why you do this. We do it periodically to stay sharp and get prepared."

Authorities say preparing for disasters like this one can mean the difference between life and death when one actually occurs.

The drill was one of several the Tift County Emergency Management Agency hosts each year. Representatives from each agency will meet again this week to discuss their performance and ways they can improve.

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