BUTLERVILLE — In September, nine Daviess County residents participated in a full-scale disaster response exercise at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center that included a simulated flood and widespread destruction from an EF3 tornado.
Dubbed “Without Warning,” the four-day event was held Sept. 24-28 by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) to evaluate the 12 counties of District 10: Daviess, Knox, Martin, Gibson, Pike, Dubois, Crawford, Posey, Vanderburgh, Warrick, Spencer and Perry. The 110 members of District 10 took 64 vehicles and 31 trailers to provide emergency medical services, law enforcement, fire suppression, water rescue, all-hazard management, and service and support.
“These exercises are an important fundamental way Indiana practices disaster response plans and procedures,” said IDHS Executive Director Joe Wainscott in a press release. “The ability to build relationships across jurisdictions now will help with collaboration during a real-life event.”
The simulations allow participants to be evaluated in various aspects of emergency disaster response, such as rescuing people from flooded homes and attending survivors in need of medical attention, without placing any lives at risk.
Washington Fire Chief David Rhoads served as safety officer for the entire operation. He had responsibility for a safe working environment during the 72-hour period.
Also from the Washington Fire Department, firefighter Jeremy Newberry attended as a member of the fire suppression team. He responded to a hospital fire, single structure fire, jail fire, propane tank fire, several trailers on fire, and a tornado.
Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit, Chief Deputy Gary Allison, Lt. Detective Bill Dougherty and Major Jeff Riker participated from the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office. The department’s water rescue connector boat was used by the water hazard team, which included Dougherty and Riker. They rescued many people from a flooded residential neighborhood and responded to a downed helicopter with multiple victims in the water.
Daviess County Emergency Management Agency Director Paul Goss was the liaison officer for the entire operation, managing interagency cooperation throughout the four-day exercise. Todd Riker, DCEMA information technology director, provided IT support. Using emergency generated power he established and maintained full electronic communications for the entire operation. DCEMA Deputy Director Scott Myers served as public information officer and photographed the operation.
“Due to the excellent individual effort of Daviess County personnel and the District 10 team members we were highly rated,” Goss said. “We were told by the chief evaluator that ‘we hit the ball out of the park.’”
The realistic disaster setting gave approximately 700 emergency responders hands-on experience and training. IDHS Response Task Forces from Districts 7, 8 and 9; hazardous material, search and rescue, and support elements from District 4; emergency medical services and crisis mental health elements from District 6; and a water rescue team from District 7 also participated.
IDHS district task force members are professional emergency responders who volunteer their free time to support other emergency response teams throughout the state when requested.
“The task forces can quickly mobilize and begin assisting local efforts, coordinating resources to better serve Hoosiers in a disaster,” Wainscott said.
If the scope of a disaster requires multi-state assistance, interstate mutual aid agreements allow other states to quickly assist each other across state lines, as well. Out-of-state participants in “Without Warning” included the San Diego All Hazard Incident Management Team, Illinois All Hazard Incident Team, and Kentucky Water Rescue Team.
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