Doomsday Drill Includes Pacific Northwest State Agencies
Ralph Bartholdt, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho | June 8, 2016
(TNS) - A nationally spurred catastrophic event training hits the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley this week to test the mettle of area emergency responders and culminates around noon Friday following a simulated emergency at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport.
The training is part of a national emergency program called "Cascadia Rising." Its premise is that a tsunami decimates coastal communities in Oregon and Washington and causes refugees to flood into Idaho. Regional responders will begin the exercise Thursday in Lewiston in order to test the region's communication and emergency medical response.
The scenario, said Katy Dudley with St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, manager of the North Central Healthcare Coalition, is a sea of destruction along the Northwest coast that results in throngs of evacuees fleeing inland to safety.
"Our role is to respond to the evacuees from those areas," Dudley said. "How can we support those displaced people?"
That support includes providing refugees with creature comforts such as lodging and clothing.
"But also helping them access community services including health care," she said.
The public should not notice Thursday's event because most of it will take place in communication hubs around the valley, where law enforcement and emergency medical officials will communicate with hospital and health department personnel in an effort to advise them of their response to a given simulated situation.
"The communication will be going on between people in a room," said Lt. Joedy Mundell with the Lewiston Police Department. "We won't have actual boots on the ground."
That won't happen until Friday morning, when medical personnel respond to the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport to tend to survivors of a simulated plane crash of refugees from the coast. Victims, played by actors, will be taken to area hospitals to test how the facilities deal with the onslaught.
"That's kind of the exciting part of the exercise for us," Dudley said.
Response agencies from across north central Idaho have been preparing for the exercise for about a year, Nez Perce County Emergency Management Director Bryant Wolfe said. And the county has been gearing up its communications office in the basement of the Nez Perce County Courthouse in preparation for this event and future simulations. This week's simulation will test its readiness.
"We're going to use it more," Wolfe said. "We have a lot of things in the pipeline."
This week's Federal Emergency Management Agency-sponsored exercise involves hospitals including St. Joe's, Tri-State, Gritman and Pullman Regional, as well as emergency response units from Asotin, Clarkston, Pullman, Moscow and Lewiston. Public Health - Idaho North Central District is also involved.
"It's a pretty significant partnership," Dudley said. "We are all focusing on our capabilities, all acting in concert together."
Bartholdt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2275.