Around the table: Officials hold tabletop exercise to prepare for future disasters

Published 9:02 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2017

An EF3 tornado touches down in northwest Danville, causing damage to homes in Bluegrass Estates, apartments on Ben Ali Drive, Danville Cinemas 8 and Woodlawn Elementary School; leaving U.S. 127 blocked from U.S. 150 to Man-O-War Drive; and resulting in multiple injuries and deaths.

That’s the scenario which emergency responders and health care, utility, city and county officials worked through in a three-hour tabletop exercise Tuesday morning, held at the Boyle County Fire Department on Lebanon Road.

“I think it went well,” said Boyle County Emergency Management Director Mike Wilder after the meeting.

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This is the first full-scale tabletop exercise that featured all of the players in an emergency the county has had in a while, Wilder said.

“The thing we’ve got that so many don’t have is participation,” he said, remarking that almost every agency involved was represented. “You can fix all of the other problems.”

Kendra Peek/
Emergency officials during the tabletop exercise, held Tuesday at the Boyle County Fire Department.

Those represented included Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, Boyle County EMS, Boyle County Fire Department, the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office, Danville Police Department, Danville Fire Department, Boyle County Schools, Atmos Energy, Kentucky Utilities, Inter-County Energy, McDowell Place, Heritage Hospice, AirEvac and more. Tables were set up in circular shapes, with the inner ring being the primary responders — EMS, law enforcement, fire, the hospital — and the outer ring being the secondary players, such as utilities and schools.

Step by step, within minutes, the scenario was laid out. At each point, officials explained what the respective agencies’ actions would be, starting with a severe thunderstorm watch, through a tornado warning, an actual tornado, responding after-the-fact and how to move into clean up and recovery.

For example, Chief Tony Gray with the Danville Police Department and Sheriff Derek Robbins with the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office said they would coordinate together.

“Just looking at the map of the affected area, I see a minimum of eight areas that need traffic control,” Robbins said, pointing out intersections where they would need to place an officer to keep rubberneckers or others from coming in.

He said they’d likely try to call in neighboring law enforcement agencies, too. Gray said they could use the Back Upps system, which connects both departments to law enforcement agencies around the region.

Kendra Peek/
Mike Wilder, director of Boyle County Emergency Management, during the tabletop exercise, held Tuesday at the Boyle County Fire Department.

Other officials talked about what resources they each could call in from other counties and agencies around the state. There were five objectives to be met: damage mitigation; search and rescue; medical triage and care; communications; and inter-agency/inter-organization coordination.

Evaluators from Kentucky Emergency Management were there to see if those objectives were achieved and to give feedback to Wilder.

“There’s a tremendous amount of room for improvement,” Wilder said. “We’ve got things to work on and we knew that. That’s why we have these.”

In the spring, date to be determined, there will be a full-scale mock event, where emergency personnel will be on the street, using radios and staging a fake disaster scene. Details on that event will be released later.