Jun 5, 2010 8:47 PM by Matt Stafford

Preparing for the worst

The skies looked a little too clear Saturday for a tornado to hit Hanover, but you can never be too sure.

A drill, with 29 agencies, will find out if El Paso County is ready to respond.

"We're going to do basically what we would in the real world," says Dale Carpenter, the faculty lead for Hanover Schools in the exercise.

The crew prepared for a situation anywhere in the South Central All Hazards Region, but for Hanover responders, they got practice on their home court, so to speak.

Hanover school helped out responders by volunteering their facility for practice time, but when disaster hits those at the school will have to fend for themselves until emergency crews arrive. When the crews get there, the school faculty practice helping out, alongside the emergency workers.

"We have a chance to see what we can do better to make our students safer here at Hanover," Carpenter says.

The question is, if a tornado tears through the halls of Hanover school (or any other in the region) what kind of damage can be expected? Given the variables, that's hard to say, but they're preparing for the worst.

180 volunteers played the role of victims. They were given varying injuries for the crews to treat, as well as realistic-looking theatre make-up. Other volunteers helped out with the operation of the drill. Along with 29 responding agencies, all in all, more than 700 people participated.

"It's a good learning opportunity for everybody," says Stacey DeMoss, a volunteer firefighter for the Hanover Fire Department. This is her first exercise of this size. Along with staying sharp, she also gets to know people she may not know now, but people she may have to work with down the road.

"It's like a welcome, you know, a comfort whenever you see someone you've already had experience with," says DeMoss.

"We know we're going to make mistakes, and that's what this is for; so we can see what the mistakes are so that next time or whenever it really happens, we've already, been through it," says Carpenter. "We've made the mistakes. What we do from here on out is the way it should be done."

It's a day they're hoping never comes, but if it does, the crews are ready for action.

The exercise was sponsored by the South Central Homeland Security Region and Pikes Peak Metropolitan Medical Response System.


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