Training for disasters keeps responders prepared

There was no underground explosion involving injuries and no anhydrous ammonia leak requiring an evacuation, but emergency crews responded as if there were. It was part of a training exercise involving multiple fire departments and law enforcement agencies.

Needham, Franklin, White River Township and Greenwood fire departments participated in the two-hour training exercise the state of Indiana requires of public safety departments once a year. In the exercise, which took place at Apostolic Gospel Church off State Road 44 near Interstate 65, safety crews weren’t told what the disaster was until they arrived.

The training is something the Johnson County Emergency Management had been planning for almost a year. During the exercise, they finally put it to the test. The goal was to make sure that if something similar were to happen in Johnson County, local emergency workers would be prepared.

Johnson County Emergency Management carried out the drill with Shelby County Emergency Management. It was the first time the two departments had teamed up to perform the training. Shelby County law enforcement joined in the training because in the event of a large-scale accident, officers from Shelby County would assist in the evacuation of nearby residents, businesses and building.

The exercise cost nearly $15,000, and 80 percent of that cost was paid for with grants, with the rest from Johnson County Emergency Management.

After the event, safety workers, law enforcement and county officials met to share information and details about the exercise. They talked about what went well, and what didn’t, what they could have done differently arriving to the scene and putting out the fire, and how they could have communicated better. This conversation will continue for several months.

Johnson County Emergency Management will use the information from the training exercise as a blueprint in the event of a disaster, such as a large fire, major traffic accident or chemical spill, to ensure that emergency responders are prepared to rescue the injured, evacuate residents or clean up a hazardous spill.

Exercises such as these allow emergency crews to utilize in their training in a more controlled environment so that when they are faced with an actual disaster they will be even better prepared. It is especially noteworthy that the exercise involved both volunteer and professional fire departments and two counties’ law enforcement, so that in the future cross-department communication and cooperation will be most effective.

We commend all involved in this vital activity, from the planning stages to the execution and, most importantly, the follow-up. Johnson County is well served by this hands-on approach to our safety.

At issue

First responders go through extensive training, but they don’t always get the chance to put it into practice in a controlled situation.

Our point

A recent disaster training exercise allowed crews to see where they need more training and allowed multiple agencies to work together in an emergency situation.