Disaster strikes Atmore?

Published 6:43 pm Monday, December 5, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
Motorists passing by the YMCA soccer fields at the corner of Craig and Presley streets Wednesday morning may have thought the sequel to E.T. was being filmed in Atmore.
Movie buffs may never get that wish because no Extra Terrestrial life forms or space ships were involved in the staged disaster.
Several area rescue agencies participated in a mock disaster drill to prepare each in case of an actual emergency.
"I thought it went good," public safety director Glenn Carlee said. "I thought it was something we needed. We did a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong."
Carlee said. "I think we should have more of them, maybe on a smaller scale to try to fine tune some areas we need to work on. I don't think we can have too many."
Carlee said mock disaster drills used to be held on an annual basis, but hurricanes the past couple of years have prevented scheduling the drills.
"We used to have them every year," Carlee said. "It's been a while since we've had one. With all the hurricanes we haven't been able to because we've been in the recovery mode."
There are several different types of disaster drills the agencies could participate in. Wednesday's drill involved an accident with a bus and a box truck, which included multiple injuries and a hazardous material spill that not only contaminated the accident scene, but also went airborne.
"This is the first drill we've done involving a hazardous material," Carlee said. "Usually it's been dealing with multiple injuries; school bus accidents or plane crashes. This is the first time we've had one involving an airborne, hazardous material. That throws in a whole different wrench as far as contamination and to be honest there are some areas we need to work on, but that's what it's for, to point those errors out."
Participants include, Atmore Fire &Rescue Department, Atmore Police Department, Atmore Department of Public Safety, Atmore Utilities Board, Atmore Community Hospital, Atmore Ambulance, Kelley's Ambulance Service, E-911, Escambia County EMA, Poarch Fire Department and the Escambia County Health Department.
"There are several different scenarios we could go over I think and each one of them would help us prepare for whatever comes along," Carlee said. "Everyone worked well together, I think everybody had a good time doing it and I think everybody learned something from it."
Atmore Fire &Rescue Department chief Gerry McGhee, Whiting Field chief Chad Cook and Carlee held a short critique session directly following the disaster drill and Friday morning to discussed the high and low points of each department involved.
"It's a learning experience for everybody," Carlee said. "It's the first time we've pulled in the Poarch Fire Department. Poarch has tremendous resources out there with the equipment they have and are willing to work with us. We need to take advantage of that and help them when we can."
Carlee said there are several small things each department needs to work on, but thought the drill was an overall success.
"One of our issues was communication problems and that was just a technological thing we've got to work out as far as getting everybody on the same frequencies and that type of stuff," Carlee said. "There's not anything that one person did wrong, you see what can happen."
Carlee said he would like to hold several more disaster drills, not only to better prepare the rescue agencies, but to get others involved. Only one shift of the Atmore Police Department was involved Wednesday. Reverse 911 calls began Monday throughout Atmore, which is used to alert citizens in attempt to prevent panic. It was performed to help the public become familiar with the system.
A week and a half prior to the disaster drill, reverse 911 calls were made throughout Atmore, which were used to alert citizens in attempt to prevent panic. It was also performed to help the public become familiar with the system.
"We appreciate 911 for doing it and it also tested their system," Carlee concluded.

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