CRAWFORD COUNTY — Hundreds of area first responders took place in a full-scale emergency exercise at Sunrise Co-op near Crestline on Wednesday morning, showcasing their training skills, while being critiqued on their performance by area emergency planning agencies.
Kirk Williamson, Crawford County Emergency Management Director, was on hand and explained the scenario that took place Wednesday.
“We’re testing our emergency operations plan for the county and we’re required to do that by the State of Ohio,” he said. “The Local Emergency Planning Committee is testing as if a hazardous chemical would be involved. We’re testing with 29 agencies today and over 100 people and the Ohio EMA is here. Just about everybody else here today is from Crawford County.
“This (exercise) is one of those things that is required by the state to test your emergency operations plan for improvements … from the first responders’ side to see strength and weaknesses and determine what needs to be done and make sure (our plan) is up to date and that we’re all on par working together,” Williamson said. “The state (EMA) actually comes in and will review this and it will get sent down to the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) and it will get approved down by the state on a pass.”
Williamson said area police departments, fire departments, the highway patrol, area EMS teams, the American Red Cross and even hospital personnel are constantly training to prepare for the annual exercise.
“We’re continually planning all the time and we’re planning for the worst case scenario and hope it never happens,” he said. “Today’s scenario is a transport vehicle with a chemical involved.”
He said they were going to be testing nine objectives during the exercise and five different county EMA directors were on hand to evaluate the emergency exercise process.
Raina Pfahler, a team leader with the Crawford County American Red Cross Disaster Team, has been with the organization for 10 years. She said the role the American Red Cross was to open an evacuation shelter for the “victims’ in the exercise.
“To prepare for something like this, we do in-house reviews and updated classes and some of us also help at other counties to keep up with updated policies and procedures,” she explained.
Galion Fire Chief Phil Jackson said the Galion Fire Department personnel were playing a support role in Wednesday’s exercise.
“Our role will probably be that of the hazmat team,” he said, noting there were five Galion Firefighters on scene for the day. “We’ve taken part in a lot of these exercises…a lot of them over the years.
“For this particular incident today, we’re like a hazardous materials team that comes in and least makes it safe for the cleanup companies to come in to get rid of the hazard,” Jackson said.
Crawford County emergency management director Kirk Williamson talks with Galion fire chief Phil Jackson before Wednesday’s disaster drill near Crestline.
First responders, safety personnel and other assistance workers took part in a mock disaster drill Saturday.