Preparing for chaos

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Al Key/DRC
Emergency personnel attend to a person with a mock injury at the C.H. Collins Athletic Complex during a disaster drill Friday in Denton.

About 30 people played the part of victims in a disaster drill put on by the city Friday morning at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.

Denton has a disaster drill every year — each time with a different scenario and location — to prepare emergency response personnel for the worst.

This year’s scenario involved a soccer tournament hit by severe weather.

“We had a severe weather warning issued and strong, straight-line winds were a major factor in the injuries,” said police Officer Ryan Grelle, who was acting as the city’s spokesman.

In the scenario, power lines were down, explosions were heard and a fire began in the southeast corner of the stadium, creating chaos for the first responders to contend with.

At least 60 volunteers acted as spectators in the stands, “trampling” over each other to get out and find their way to safety, which resulted in various mock injuries.

Brian Glenn, battalion chief with the Denton Fire Department, oversaw triage and treatment during the mock disaster.

“We had a total of 27 injuries and three fatalities,” he said.

Jody Gonzalez, Denton County’s emergency management coordinator, said these drills provide training for not only the city but the entire county.

More than 25 agencies and groups <FZ,1,0,43>participated in this year’s event.

Some of the agencies are not on the same radio frequencies as Denton County, he said, and drills like this help to ensure that the agencies can work well together.

“It’s just a great way to learn how effective our mutual aid is,” Gonzalez said.

In case the agencies’ radio equipment goes down in a disaster, Denton County Amateur Radio Emergency Services members were on scene to provide backup.

County emergency management crews had battery-powered cameras set up at four angles around the perimeter of the mock disaster to monitor the drill onscreen in a mobile command center.

“They had these set up within 10 minutes of arrival, proving command with sets of eyes at each area,” Gonzalez said.

Glenn said Michael Penaluna, the Denton Fire Department’s emergency management coordinator, spent about six months preparing for the drill.

Grelle said all administrators will gather next week for a roundtable discussion to compare notes on how to improve response in the future.

“We train as realistic as we can — if we don’t train realistic, then the first responders will not know how to react to something they have never seen before,” Grelle said. “It’s the best kind of training we can provide, not only to ourselves but to better respond to our community.”

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.


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