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Tri-County CERT participated in the Triennial full-scale disaster exercise for metro first responders

posted Oct 5, 2015, 4:44 PM by Tri-County CERT   [ updated May 3, 2016, 5:47 PM ]

OMAHA, Neb. —Emergency responders were sent to Omaha's Eppley Airfield Saturday morning --- except there wasn't a real emergency. It was for a disaster training exercise made possible by 33 organizations.

"First responders need this in order to be able to assist appropriately for the real deal," said Tim Conahan, chief of police for Omaha Airport Authority.

More than 160 volunteers participated in the triennial full-scale disaster exercise. The Federal Aviation Administration requires that all airports conduct such in order to test their emergency plans.

Five police agencies, four fire departments, and over 11 area hospitals participated in the drill.

"It hurts your heart," said Brenda Christensen, a volunteer. "You're thinking how that could be your family. What if they were in a plane crash? There's nothing you can do."

Some volunteer victims had leg injuries; some with arm injuries. Others had body parts severed. The worse case scenario was a victim dead on scene.

"We take it very seriously because we learn a lot of things from it," said Conahan. "Just in case this was to ever happen in real life, everyone wants to be prepared to be able to handle it."

Saturday's drill allowed all agencies to test response and recovery plans as well. Specifically, the fire departments were able to test their ability to coordinate with multiple agencies during a mass disaster. Officials placed a heavy focus on triage, treatment, and transport.

"I feel more comfortable now --- if this were to happen," said Connor Gelvin, a volunteer. "They should also feel more comfortable (after training) as well."

Becoming at ease to all situations is on the forefront of the drill's mission. For law enforcement, the exercise is used to test their policy and procedures for handling a mass casualty event. They'll have to assess how they coordinate with local and federal agencies, fire departments and the media.

Conahan says he's thankful for opportunities like this: "This allows first responders a chance to get a lot of information out of scenarios like these while also making sure everything is going the way we want it to go."

Tri-County CERT registered all of the volunteers who participated in this exercise.  There were two CERT members at the terminal helping with the volunteers who were playing like they were family members to people on the plane.  CERT also checked out all of the volunteers to make sure everyone was accounted for.