Oolitic Town Officials Practice Emergency Plans

(OOLITIC) – The phrase “it can’t happen here” is something that most small towns and communities say because their communities seldom if ever find themselves involved with a major disaster.

Audio: Lawrence County Emergency Management Director Valarie Luchauer

The likelihood of a major incident such as an earthquake, hazardous materials incident, or terrorist attack is something that will likely not happen in a community of fewer than 2,500 residents or less. Yet anyone in emergency services knows that is a dangerous assumption.

Audio: Lawrence County Emergency Management Director Valarie Luchauer discusses emergency preparedness

Even more unlikely is if every elected official of a community became incapacitated by one single incident. But what if it did happen?

How would the local government continue to function, should city council members in charge of your community no longer being able to perform their duties?

Audio: Lawrence County Emergency Management Director Valarie Luchauer
Emergency personnel practice setting up decontamination showers for a simulated Hazardous Materials exposure on Saturday.

On Friday and Saturday Oolitic Town officials took part in an exercise to test the plans and readiness of town officials, emergency personnel, and other forms of government.

Audio: New Oolitic Town Council Member Steve Kerr

The Oolitic City Council, Oolitic Fire Department, Marshall Township Volunteer Fire Department, Northern Monroe Fire Territory Hazardous Materials Response Team, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana University Health, Oolitic Police Department, and Lawrence County Emergency responders all participated in the exercise on Friday.

A simulated scenario of a white powdery substance thrown during a council meeting.
Audio: Oolitic Town Council President Dirk Sears

On Saturday, a live exercise took place with the Oolitic, Huron, Shawswick, and Mitchell fire departments along with the Northern Monroe Fire Territory Haz-Mat Team and Indiana State Fire Marshal’s office haz-mat officials taking part in the haz-nat and terrorist attack scenario. Seals Ambulance crews also practiced several emergency medical skills in dealing with a contaminated patient with a unknown chemical.

Audio: Dirk Sears discusses Oolitic’s preparedness for such an event

The drill on Saturday took place at the Oolitic Town Hall located at 109 Main Street with the Oolitic Fire Department and other Lawrence County volunteer fire agencies taking part in the hands-on decontamination of personnel and possible causalities.

Victims cough and struggle to breathe in scenarios acted out Saturday for emergency personnel. Seals Ambulance crews practice dealing with patients contaminated with chemicals.

The Drill:

The practice drill included a 9-1-1 call into Lawrence County Central dispatch with an unknown medical emergency and possible assault at 109 Main Street. A person acting as a disgruntled former city council member was carrying a jar of Methly Paritihon (herbicide) which is a white powdery substance.

Firefighters from several Lawrence County Fire Departments practice in responding to a simulated haz-mat and terrorist attack.

The person entered the Oolitic Town Council Chambers, opened the jar, and threw the jar of powder on council members seated at the table. The powder covered most of the council members and the table, walls, chairs, and floors during a town council meeting.

The assailant yelled ” you are a bunch of worthless weeds,” and “this is for your action against me,” and exited the building.

Audio: Oolitic Fire Chief Ted Maze explaining why it is important for small fire departments to practice these skills.

Several emergency agencies then went into action testing their readiness, plans, and skills in dealing with this simulated drill.

A final report will be made available to the public at a later time to determine how each agency did, as well as recommendations on how to improve.