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Disaster drills can save lives

People who volunteer to portray “victims” during a disaster drill probably get a chuckle or two out of the experience of having their “injuries” evaluated and treated by emergency crews, but the exercise is no joking matter.

Those charged with providing aid at the scene and transportation to medical facilities during such practice runs know to treat the experience seriously. How they respond to the scripted “disaster” could mean the difference between life and death — not for those acting out the scenario, of course, but for future victims of actual catastrophic events.

No one takes the old saying that “practice makes perfect” more seriously than veteran emergency responders, and the rest of us can find comfort in the fact that they do.

That’s how we felt at the conclusion of a disaster drill staged Friday morning by the city of Denton at the C.H. Collins Athletic Complex. More than 25 area agencies and groups participated.

The drill is held annually — each time with a different scenario and location — to prepare emergency response personnel for the worst. Some of the agencies are not on the same radio frequencies as Denton County, and officials said drills like this one help ensure that the agencies can work well together and provide more effective mutual aid.

Denton County Amateur Radio Emergency Services members were also on hand. We’ve written about these folks before — they are ready to step in to provide emergency communication in case the usual lines of communication break down in a disaster.

This year’s training scenario involved a soccer tournament hit by severe weather, including strong, straight-line winds. In the drill, 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.

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

Brian Glenn, battalion chief with the Denton Fire Department, said that Michael Penaluna, the fire department’s emergency management coordinator, spent about six months preparing for the drill.

We appreciate his attention to detail and the contributions of all who worked to make the exercise as realistic as possible, and we commend the city of Denton and the agencies that participated for their hard work and dedication to uphold the public trust.

The recent tragedies in Boston and West have reminded us how quickly disasters can strike and that no one is immune from risk.

Those events have also given us a greater appreciation for our emergency responders and made us realize that we don’t say thank you often enough.

We appreciate all you do to keep us safe, and we’ll try to remember to say it more often.