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Nationwide earthquake drill to test preparedness

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Drill to be conducted May 16-20

By Amber Coulter

acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com
The nation is gearing up for an earthquake drill, but it won’t be about diving under desks and avoiding glass objects.
Countless emergency management organizations, medical service facilities, emergency responders, National Guard posts and volunteer organizations will communicate with each other as if they were responding to earthquakes from May 16-20.
The exercise is meant to help responders know what they should improve upon to be prepared to respond to an actual emergency.
In Kentucky, organizations will be informed that a major earthquake took place along the New Madrid Fault Line, which extends southwest from New Madrid, Mo.
It has the potential to affect parts of Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Other states will simulate their own earthquakes.
Responders will use communication devices such as the Internet, hand radios and cell phones to communicate between areas effected by the hypothetical earthquake and areas sending assistance.
Doug Finlay, deputy director of the Emergency Management Department in Hardin County, said such a disaster could cause a lot of damage to the state west of Interstate 65 and make the ground around cities unstable enough to make reaching them very difficult.
Hardin County likely would send assistance to the western part of the state, he said.
The county is well-equipped to send trained strike teams to set up command centers in effected areas and emergency medical service workers to help with people who are injured there if there was such an emergency, Finlay said.
The county’s emergency management plan also calls for activating volunteer organizations such as the American Red Cross and Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland, he said.
There won’t be ambulances or fire trucks careening through the streets during the problem-solving exercise. The drill will help responders figure out which response aspects they excelled at and which they need to improve upon.
That will help officials be prepared for a real emergency and know what resources each county has readily available, Finlay said.
“It really sort of makes you aware of your deficiencies,” he said.
The nation has hosted similar exercises, but Finlay said there have been none recently. He hopes it will help the county be better prepared in case it ever has to respond to a real emergency.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746.