Local and state emergency officials coordinate operations from a makeshift command center Tuesday during a simulated tabletop training exercise in Lake Arthur. (Doris Maricle/American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, July 31, 2014 12:45 PM
LAKE ARTHUR — A call to 911 reporting a pipeline explosion Tuesday near Lake Arthur jump-started a whirlwind of activity for Jeff Davis Parish firemen, law enforcement agencies and emergency responders.
The call was the beginning of a three-hour tabletop training exercise designed to test the readiness of emergency responders, officials said.
“Hopefully this never happens,” said Columbia Gulf Transmission pipeline technician Brian Schultz. “But if it does, hopefully after this exercise we will know what to do and what not to do.”
The exercise began with the pipeline explosion, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents and the closure of roads. It then branched into multiple scenarios, including an accident involving a cargo tanker explosion, the report of a plane crash, reports of a missing group of juveniles and a tornado.
“It makes you have to think of that next step,” Jeff Davis Parish sheriff’s Deputy Mika Miguez said. “You definitely have to go back to your training and what steps to take next.”
The drill was designed to test how agencies responded, and it allowed them to work together. Dozens of local and state agencies responded to the action, setting up an incident command center and manning operations, staging logistics and planning areas.
“The exercise is beneficial to everyone as far as training and learning to handle an emergency situation,” said Sonja McCoy, Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office project coordinator.
Facilitator Bill Ferroli of Compliance Associates said the training helps responders learn to solve problems as fast and as effectively as possible.
“They get all the confusion as with a real-life scenario,” he said. “There is good and bad information coming in as they are presented with a series of problems. They have to learn to work together as a team with limited resources and to gather the facts and formulate an action plan.”
Jeff Davis Parish Fire District 2 Fire Chief Tim Landry said the drill was an important training exercise. “If this were an actual call, it would flow better,” he said. “But it does prepare you for what could happen.”
After the drill, Klondike Fire Department Fire Chief Scott Weekly said participating in the exercise was an eye opener. “It makes you think how quickly things can change for the worse,” he said. “There’s a lot to learn.”
Training was confusing because “there was so much (information) coming in,” said Joe Abshire of the Lake Arthur Fire Department. “But if it really happens, we will be trained and that is something we need,” he said.