Wiscasset drill puts agencies to the test

Mon, 11/11/2013 - 7:00pm

    A fake crash between a bus and a chemical truck on Wiscasset's Route 27 the night of November 7 made for Lincoln County's largest disaster drill in four years.

    The overturned bus full of volunteer actors playing dead and injured slowed traffic and served as training for more than 80 emergency workers from as far as Somerville and Portland; and it let Edgecomb Fire Chief Roy Potter's children see some of what he faces when he's out on a call, Potter's wife Karen Potter said.

    It was also a chance to help make the drill happen, by playing passengers, she said. She was one, too.

    Ryan Potter, 10, was assigned to pretend he had a fractured femur.

    “I had to keep on saying, 'Ow, my leg,'” Potter said later.

    “It was really cold, but really exciting,” said his sister, Natalie Potter, 12. “My favorite part would have to be sitting there crying for help and them coming in and saying, 'Are you OK.'”

    Fake blood was sprinkled all around, Karen Potter said. “It was like a horror movie.”

    The scenario for the accident was a winter storm worse than the 1998 ice storm, officials said. The bus was described as being on its way to a shelter with people whose power was out.

    The chemical truck's involvement added the element of hazardous materials for the exercise. Up went Lincoln County's blue, decontamination tent. It can inflate in a minute and a half, county emergency management officials said.

    The tent, bought with federal homeland security money, was a gift to the county from the Maine Emergency Management Agency. It can be a great help, not only for getting chemicals off people at an accident scene, but as a warming hut at other emergencies.

    That's how it was used when the county loaned it out for a search in Rangeley for a group of snowmobilers. Divers were able to go inside the tent after they'd been in the water, Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency Director Tod Hartung said.

    “That's the great thing about Maine,” he said. “Anybody needs help, they call. We all depend on each other.”

    No one picked up any actual injuries in last week's exercise, which, from an organizational standpoint, made it a success, Hartung said.

    He expects that with more than 80 emergency personnel and about 20 emergency vehicles involved, the post-drill talks and surveys will pinpoint things to improve.

    That's the idea, he said.

    Other than the real thing, a drill that size is the only way to find what works and what needs work, Hartung said.

    A drill was also run that night at Maine Yankee, where the scenario was a propane leak, Hartung said. Fire departments from Damariscotta, Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor took part in that one, he said.