Ole Miss holds disaster exercise at Vaught-Hemingway

Ole Miss simulated a propane tank explosion in the north end zone on Wednesday in order to give the university, city and county officials a chance to prepare for an actual emergency. (Robert Jordan/University of Mississippi)

Ole Miss simulated a propane tank explosion in the north end zone on Wednesday in order to give the university, city and county officials a chance to prepare for an actual emergency. (Robert Jordan/University of Mississippi)

By Parrish Alford
Daily Journal

OXFORD – Emergency management and Ole Miss officials were pleased with what they learned in a first-of-its-kind emergency preparedness drill at the school’s football stadium Wednesday.

Roughly 60 actors, that many or more emergency responders and many more volunteers performed their tasks after a simulated explosion at 60,580-seat Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

The event combined the efforts of university, city and county response teams and included actors covered with blood, a mock press conference and victims transported to Baptist Hospital.

The mock explosion happened under the north end zone stands and was traced to a propane tank.

“We could have used a terrorist event of some sort to make it more realistic. We were testing response from the local agencies today and saw no need to get federal involved,” said Todd DeMuth, of the Mississippi Emergency Management

Agency’s office of preparedness.

The chosen opponent was SEC West rival LSU.

First of its kind
This type of drill had not been conducted in the state previously.

“It’s certainly not been done in Mississippi and not anywhere else in the southeast that I’m aware of,” DeMuth said.

One of the goal’s of the morning exercise was to test response time for several agencies coming together.

“We wanted to test multiple functions of emergency management response time. Perimeter set-up, was there a hazmat scenario? Numerous things that the local agencies don’t get to do on a daily basis to give them an idea of stress and anxiety of a real event,” DeMuth said.

When the event was complete DeMuth gathered participants in the end zone stands and went over the good and bad points. He said there were no major issues that need to be addressed.

“I think it went really well,” said Joe Swingle, the school’s associate athletics director for facilities and game operation. “If an incident happens we have to have a unified command and make sure we’re all working together.”

University Police Chief Calvin Sellers said his department and Oxford police often work together but that the addition of other agencies was a good test of coordinating abilities.

“We wanted to see the cooperation between the different agencies – fire and EMS and police,” he said. “Every (agency) had a plan … but we’ve got to sit down and make some plans together.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com