Multi-agency exercise readies Midlands for worst-case scenario

(Source: WIS)
(Source: WIS)
Published: May. 3, 2019 at 3:10 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As we inch closer to hurricane season, several local, state, and military agencies spent the day making sure they’d be ready if you need help.

Nearly 200 personnel participated in a large-scale mock disaster drill Friday at the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission hangar at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport designed to challenge and improve their response capabilities.

The US Department of Defense's Federal Coordination Center-Columbia, the South Carolina Forestry Commission's Incident Management Team, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control lead the exercise, which simulated the reception, triage, and tracking of injured and evacuated people from a fictional hurricane in the Caribbean Sea.

“First thing we’re going to do whenever we bring a patient in is do an immediate triage,” Staff Sgt. Christopher Malone of the South Carolina National Guard said.

The goal was to train in real-life scenarios in case of an emergency.

“In the military, we like to build muscle memory,” Sgt. Corey Outen, a medic with the South Carolina Army National Guard, said. “When you get in that adrenaline and that state of panic, your body is naturally going to go back to its training, what it knows how to do, so repetition and you actually training on these events builds that muscle memory and that way we can, we don’t have to think we can just respond.”

Throughout the course of two days, hundreds practiced in a large-scale mock disaster drill designed to challenge and improve their response capabilities.

“If we have received patients from an affected area, similar to Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, we will bring them here to South Carolina,” Columbia FCC coordinator Lt. Colonel William Jones said. “In South Carolina, we will provide stabilization, patient evacuations to hospitals that can provide that same similar care.”

While the casualties in the drills are fake, responding personnel, inbound flights, medical transport logistics, performance expectations, and security procedures are not.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission’s Incident Management Team is working with law enforcement and the S.C. State Guard to prioritize safety and security

“In 2017, we were here this same time of year doing the same type of drill and that following September was when Hurricane Maria came through Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands and so we got activated,” South Carolina Forestry Commission Incident commander Jonathan Calore said. “Just fell right back into place doing the exact same training we believe in how you respond is based off of how you train.”

The exercise in Columbia will be the first of two coordinated drills that make up this NDMS activation; the operation moves to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer Monday and Tuesday.

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