Drill tests readiness for disasters in county

Emergency scenarios studied at earthquake drill

Disrupted electrical service prevented the pumping of gasoline. Damage to roads and bridges required traffic control. There was a report of a lack of communication services and some injuries that required medical attention. Buildings were checked for structural damage.

Those were the scenarios studied Saturday afternoon in Houston as Texas County conducted its first earthquake drill to test its readiness to emergency situations. An emergency operation center was established in the basement of the courthouse as volunteers practiced. Radio equipment was unpacked, computer equipment connected and the county’s disaster operations assessed.

Under the drill, volunteers responded after learning of an earthquake that left significant damage in Missouri’s Bootheel. Because of the devastation, many resources were diverted there to aid those stricken. Those left behind here provided aid to citizens who needed attention.

Bob Ellsworth, the county’s emergency preparedness director, explained that in the event of an actual disaster, the county’s communication post will be in the basement of the county courthouse. On Saturday, volunteers strung cable to establish radio communications. Among them was Lou Tyce of Eunice, a member of Amateur Radio Emergency Services, an organization that offers its assistance with radio gear and other needs when a crisis develops.

Ellsworth said plans call for the permanent establishment of emergency communications equipment at the courthouse once some offices relocate to the new county justice center later this year.

As part of the drill, a volunteer group, the county chapter of Medical Reserve Corps, located in the park to simulate treatment of victims. The Medical Reserve Corps program coordinates the skills of practicing and retired physicians, nurses and other health professionals as well as other citizens interested in health issues, who are eager to volunteer to address their community’s ongoing public health needs and to help their community during large-scale emergency situations. Nationwide, the group was formed after Sept. 11.

The county’s Neighborhood Watch Program also was activated to assess law enforcement with traffic and crowd control, as well as to prevent looting.

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