Large Scale Disaster Exercise Gives Agencies Practice

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TOPEKA, Kan. - A large scale disaster hit Forbes Field in Topeka Tuesday. It was a staged event, but the practice emergency crews got out of it was real.

Several Shawnee County departments put their skills to the test to make sure they're ready to work together if a real disaster were to occur. They included MTAA Public Safety, 190th ANG, Shawnee Heights Fire, Topeka Fire Haz-Mat, Silver Lake Fire, Topeka Police, Shawnee Sheriff, KDHE, Shawnee County Coroner, Shawnee County Health, Stormont Vail, St. Francis, AMR, Salvation Army, SCHA Medical Reserve Corp, Shawnee County Emergency Management, Lawrence Douglas County Fire and Medical, MTAA Robot, Baker School of Nursing, Stormont Vail Nursing, CERT, Shawnee Height School District bus, AMCOM and CECC.

The idea was that an airplane came in short of a runway at Forbes Field. A school bus and other vehicles were involved. Victims were treated as if they could have been contaminated with radioactive material.

"There's always three priorities," said Dave Sterbenz, Shawnee County Emergency Management Director. "They are: life safety; instant stabilization and property conservation. That's what our priorities are."

While emergency crews work through their disaster plan, nursing students are learning what the patients go through in these situations by playing the role of the victims.

"It's just a good experience to know that in a true crisis situation, that we know what the patients go through where, as nurses, we would eventually see them at the hospital," said Nona Stoss, a nursing student at Baker University.

"We have to exercise our plans to show that we're ready so that the public knows that we're ready and let's multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional law personnel work together," said Sterbenz.

Sterbenz said MTAA is required to do drills like this every three years.

Eric Johnson, Director of Airports Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority and Sterbenz said the drill was "extremely informative and educational for everyone that participated and attended."

Here is how it all played out:
The incident scenario started at 9:05a.m. with a civilian jet with 2 pilots and 6 passengers onboard coming up short on landing and colliding with civilian vehicles. Unfortunately all souls on the aircraft were fatalities.

As the aircraft came down, it contacted a commercial truck hauling radioactive materials, a bus, and Corrections work crew truck. Four of the work crew along with the corrections guard were also fatalities. The other vehicles had at least 2 to 4 more fatalities.

The radioactive material was spread about the area, contaminating those in the area. Once triaged and treated, the patients were then bussed to the Library where they were divided and sent to the ER's at Saints and Stormont.

Another part of the incident was to exercise the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) purchased equipment, which was a robot and mass casualty trailer. Another purpose of the exercise was to interface county and state EOC's.

Those participating today were:
Shawnee Heights Fire
Topeka Fire Haz-Mat
Topeka Police
Shawnee Sheriff
190th ANG
Shawnee County Coroner
Shawnee County Health
Lawrence, Douglas County Fire and Medical Mass Casualty trailer MTAA Robot Saint Francis Hospital Stormont Vail Hospital Salvation Army Canteen