Column: Hurricane shows value of drills

The Tribune

Emergency response drills can be easily dismissed as grown-up boys (and girls) playing with grown-up toys.

But with Hurricane Sandy and a winter storm targeting the East Coast and New England states, some of the Hoosier first responders who trained this spring and summer were called upon over the weekend to pack up, prepare their gear and head east.

More than 100 first responders and more than 40 pieces of equipment were dispatched by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security to help with anticipated evacuations and response to the aftermath of what was then being called a super storm in the making.

So far, no first responders from Jackson County — some of whom participated in natural disaster drills this summer at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Jennings County — have been tapped to join the effort, Duane Davis of the county’s Emergency Management Office said Monday afternoon.

But local first responders were alerted to possible deployment and may be called upon yet to offer relief, he added.

Providing relief to local first responders was among scenarios practiced this summer during an operation called Without Warning at Muscatatuck.

A crew of four Seymour firefighters participated, as did Davis. They and their ladder truck joined firefighters from Bloomington and Columbus fire departments along with a volunteer unit, as part of the region’s role in the training.

When a disaster stretches beyond the scope of local resources, local officials can request support from the district groups, even from other states, as is happening now with Hurricane Sandy.

Dressing up and dropping into mock disasters at the National Guard training center and elsewhere may seem like walking into a skit at the Seymour Jaycees’ Fear Fair haunted house attraction, but that’s not the case at all. They work hard and train hard.

We all can sleep easier knowing that the men and women who will serve as first responders when a powerful storm cell hits here will have been trained in what to do and how to work with others.

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