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After-Action Report Deems August Disaster Drill a Success

But it also serves as a worksheet for improvement, the emergency management director said.

The August mass casualty drill at RHS. Photo Credit: Chris Dehnel
The August mass casualty drill at RHS. Photo Credit: Chris Dehnel
In the big picture of the large-scale mass casualty disaster drill conducted at Rockville High School over the summer, emergency management officials have deemed the operation a success. 

But they are also considering it a worksheet to get even better. 

That was the conclusion in an after-action report recently published. The drill was called "IMPACT 2013" for "Integrated Municipal Preparedness and Collaborative Training."  

The report was authored by the Capitol Region Council of Governments based on feedback from participants and evaluators. 

Emergency Management Director Michael Purcaro, Assistant Fire Chief Steve Eppler and Lt. William Meier of the Vernon Police Department also coordinated reports from individual local entities.  

"The Town of Vernon should once again be congratulated on their commitment in striving for excellence in emergency preparedness and response," the report stated. "This is not just seen at the public safety agency level, but up through and including Vernon’s executive leadership supporting the efforts of the first responders. Exercises such as IMPACT 2013 are complex and provide a challenge in not only response but preparation and the IMPACT 2013 Exercise Planning Team did an outstanding job in meeting this challenge."

The report continued: 

"In recent years, Vernon has increased its capabilities and capacity to manage incidents, large-scale emergencies, and town wide disasters. Vernon and its first responder agencies, school system, and various other Town departments have embraced the Whole of Community preparedness concept and have proven successful in all four phases of Emergency Management. The IMPACT 2013 FSE represents the Town’s continued maturation of developinga viable and fully integrated local and regional response system. The FSE provides the Town another opportunity to emphasize strengths to be maintained and built upon, identify potential areas for further improvement, and support development of corrective actions. Ultimately, exercise findings provide a foundation for Vernon to establish and implement a viable continuity program that addresses all phases of risk management."

The fictitious scenario unfolded on Aug. 15, when a car slammed into the bleachers at the Rockville High School football stadium on a sunny morning. 

The dazed and confused driver left an injured child behind and wandered into the school building as administrators imposed a soft lockdown. Meanwhile, victims littered the grassy knoll behind the wrecked bleachers. They were full of students attending an outdoor event when the car hit. 

First-responders from several area towns and agencies - including Life Star helicopter - rushed to the area to coordinate a multi-faceted response. 

According to the report, there were several major successes, including: 

• Well-established incident command systems between "town and mutual aid resources."

• Various response organizations were able to integrate into unified command without significant difficulty.  

• The assignment of respond roles was well done. 

Areas to make even better are:

• A review of command procedures. 

• Review, revise, or development patient care communication protocols.

• Refinement of site security, crowd control and scene safety processes and guidelines for the Vernon Police Department and the Vernon Fire Department Fire Police.

• Strengthen processes for the integration of Vernon school system digital mobile radios and camera systems into incident response intelligence gathering and communications with first responders.

• Review processes and procedures for conducting active threat or intruder searches.

• Review/revise Vernon school system lockdown protocols making it easier for declaration of soft and hard lockdowns and communications with staff and classrooms.

• Review, develop system-wide processes for how school staff responds to emergencies to include student accountability and tracking if students are moved off campus.

The report concluded: 

"The full-scale exercise demonstrated that the first responders and emergency management personnel for the Town of Vernon take seriously their duty to protect and provide quality public safety services to its townspeople and visitors. The Town takes its responsibilities seriously by supporting the activities of Vernon’s public safety and medical personnel. Vernon’s first-responders and emergency management personnel as a whole are taking proactive measures to enhance preparedness and response capabilities by challenging existing policies, procedures and resources in a positive and constructive manner."

Purcaro said the drill was one way to test the school system's radio system and school officials are already working on ways to extend the communications from staff members to first-responders. 

He said another plan is to provide data-streaming from external school cameras that can be sent directly to laptops in police cruisers and fire vehicles than can be used for assessments at the scene. 

State grant money is paying for the improvements, he said. 

Emergency and school officials are also planning regular meetings to review scenarios and the responses to them. 

"Overall, we are pleased with out execution and results. We want to now take it to the next level," Purcaro said. "God-forbid a real incident takes place, but we want to be even better prepared to respond if one does take place." 

Participating in the event were: Town of Vernon, Vernon Public Schools, state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Capitol Region Council of Governments, Connecticut Department of Public Health, Johnson Memorial Hospital, United Steel, Life Star (Hartford Hospital), Ellington Fire Department, East Windsor Ambulance, South Windsor Ambulance, Coventry Fire Department, Somers Fire/Ambulance, UCONN Fire Department, Ellington Ambulance, Tolland Fire Department, American Medical Response, Tolland County Dispatch, Ambulance Service of Manchester, Enfield Ambulance, and Marinello School of Makeup.
Joe Smith December 18, 2013 at 07:26 AM
What if, the promise you've come to expect and you were in harmony! www.disasterprepared.net

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