Disaster drill helps local responders practice

Hood River’s waterfront served as the staging area for a “mass casualty” training exercise that began early Saturday morning.

About 37 Boy Scouts from the Mid-Columbia participated in the realistic drill that centered on a train derailment involving a chemical spill. The young “victims” enthusiastically donned bloody rags and gruesome makeup for their grim roles. Although they occasionally broke out of character with a smile or laugh — they easily reverted to pain-wracked expressions when approached by emergency responders.

Union Pacific/Santa Fe Railroad donated tank and hopper cars to be used as props and Carson Oil loaned a tanker truck to the effort. The simulated accident occurred when a freight train was unable to avoid ramming a tanker truck that had stalled on the tracks. The resultant crash not only injured pedestrians but mixed a deadly combination of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and liquid hydrochloric acid.

“The purpose of these exercises is to identify some of the areas where we can improve,” said Karl Tesch, emergency services coordinator.

Numerous fire, police and ambulance officials converged near the Hood River Distillers to set up decontamination and triage stations. To the casual observer, the scene appeared chaotic, but Tesch said the mostly volunteer crew had it well under control. He said the exercise revealed only two areas of concern, the need for more blankets to cover a larger number of victims and a little finetuning in radio communications.

“The backbone of this county is the volunteers, without them we couldn’t accomplish anything and they were great,” said Tesch.

He and an advisory panel of emergency responders had also arranged for an industrial “accident” to take place at the same time in a Carson, Wash., lumber plant. Tesch said the joint drill is coordinated every other year to meet federal hazardous materials training requirements. He said the next full-scale alert will be even more realistic, since Hood River County has recently been approved for a mobile de-contamination station.

He said federal funds will also be used to update the local Emergency Prepardeness Plan during the next year. Tesch said the county will pay only $5,200 of the salary to hire a full-time writer/editor for that 12 month task.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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