First responders hone their skills

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

RICHMOND COMMUNITY – Friday night’s hail and thunderstorms added a touch of reality to Saturday morning’s tornado drill in the Richmond community.
Emergency crews from Lee and Itawamba counties set up command at the Richmond Pentecostal Church and spread out to search for tornado victims.
An hour into the drill, an ATV carrying a group of Shannon volunteer firefighters came across a car flipped into a ditch by the tornado.
The car was placed there for the drill but the crew set to work as if lives were at stake, pulling out a victim and calling for the coroner in case a second victim was dead.
“I brought some of my younger guys out here and they are getting great experience,” said David Homan, Shannon Volunteer Fire Department’s assistant chief. “We’re trying to train them up.”
The live victim, played by Kristin Banik, was strapped to a board a take to the triage tent on the back of an ATV. The deceased victim, played by a dummy, was placed in a body bag and transported to the field morgue.
In a nearby field, four Mooreville Volunteer Fire Department members placed orange flags in the ground near a tree.
“We’re out here searching for victims,” said Mooreville Fire Chief Ron Witte. “We found one in a tree. This is supposed to be the main area the tornado went through so we’re out here searching, sweeping the area.”
As the crews found victims, they radioed the command center and triage tent to have medical teams secure the victims and transport them back to the triage tent. As vehicles were dispatched from the two stations, they had to dodge signs that simulated trees in the road and search for the orange flags that indicated a victim. From the triage tent, the victims were treated and moved to a hospital or elsewhere by ambulance, depending on their injuries.
Richmond Fire Chief Joe Banik, the drill organizer, said the exercise was worthwhile because of the large number of participants.
“The drill is going great,” he said. “It’s not perfect and it’s not supposed to be perfect because it won’t be if we do have a tornado. We’ve had nine bodies found and several simulated injuries. We’ve had to extricate from a car, a couple on a roof and one in a tree. They’ve gotten some good training on getting everyone out.”
More than 50 volunteers participated, representing most Lee County volunteer fire departments, the North Mississippi Medical Center, Lee County Emergency Management Agency and the Lee County sheriff and coroner’s offices.
jb.clark@journalinc.com