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Communication, cooperation at its finest

By Staff | Jun 24, 2008

With campers at a distance, Emmet County Sheriff Larry Lamack corrals two at the tornado drill in Wolden Park Saturday who acted drunk in photo above. At left are Estherville Police Officer Matt Reineke and Max. Once the dog picked up the scent, he was able to find the child missing in the woods after a few minutes. EDN photos by Mary Ann Menendez

(Editor’s note: Because this was only a drill, our reporter was escorted by Public Information Officer Jamey Parker the entire time and was able to get close to the actual drill rescue and triage. During a real emergency, the press would be contained nearby and not allowed on site.)

It was NOT the real deal.

The afternoon scenario on June 21 looked as though a tornado had roared through Wolden Park as injuries were too numerous to count. The disaster drill afforded our area First Responders a chance to practice on how to communicate efficiently to coordinate efforts to do what they do best – save lives.

Wallingford Fire Chief Jarrod Fischer was the guiding force as he and his firefighters led the charge. From where we watched, the pretend disaster and its end result was what Fischer was hoping to achieve.

The National Weather Service also took part by issuing the mock tornado watch at 11:30 a.m., followed by a mock tornado warning at 12:45 p.m. Both alerts were forwarded to every pager in the county as the dispatcher in the Emmet County Law Enforcement did her part and quickly passed on the bulletins.

At 12:59 p.m., a 911 call was placed to the LEC reporting a tornado had touched down in Wolden Park and there were injuries.

Calls for emergency help were heeded and First Responders descended on the lake side area in droves from their individual municipalities. An assortment of ambulances, patrol cars, fire trucks and other rescue vehicles were on scene with approximately 80 personnel participating.

They treated the injured, rescued persons stranded in the lake, removed a “dummy” driver and passengers from a tree-smashed vehicle.

Max, the four-legged officer with the Estherville Police Department took only a few minutes to track the scent of a child lost in the woods.

The Air Care helicopter arrived to transport those with the most serious of injuries while area ambulances transported the majority. They were all taken to Avera Holy Family Health where medical personnel took over and practiced their portion of emergency administration.

Some of the Armstrong firefighters worked the better part of two hours extricating the dummy driver from the bashed car with the Jaws of Life.

Providing shelter was the staff of Emmet County Public Health in the lower part of the new nature center.

The campground was jammed with individuals enjoying the first weekend of summer so there were many spectators out and about.

Some of the “injuries” included a heart attack, cuts and contusions and broken bones. Flying debris impaled one victim. With all of the make-up and props, the scene did look authentic and intensified the reason for the drill. Adding to the confusion were a few feigning intoxication. This was to give law enforcement some practice on maintaining law and order while tending to the injured. The belligerent and loud participants were finally handcuffed under a shade tree and told to keep quiet.

“This drill was in the planning for nine months and I think it went very well,” Fischer said. “I am grateful to all of the participants who took the time to make it a good learning tool.”

The Wallingford fire chief said every First Responder was able to learn from the drill. “We will use what we learned Saturday during true emergencies and for other training purposes.”