Wednesday was a very active day for Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville Regional Medical Center, and local emergency responders. A simulated severe weather event, involving a tornado which swept through the northern portion of the city of Cookeville, put emergency plans to the test for two of the larger populated campuses during the weekday hours.
The “mock” event began with 911 calls flooding into Putnam County’s Emergency Communications Center. As Emergency Telecommunicators worked to sort through the information it became quickly clear that there were several buildings damaged and multiple injuries.
The first reports were from TTU’s Jere Whitson Hall which took a direct hit from the simulated tornado. TTU also took this opportunity to test their emergency notification systems throughout the campus. TTU Police Chief Gay Shepherd commented “We had a pretty seamless notification. Within 5 minutes we feel like the entire campus was notified of the events taking place.”
As Putnam County Emergency Medical Services and Cookeville Fire Department crews responded to the Jere Whitson Hall emergency, calls began coming in from TTU’s Tucker Stadium and Cookeville Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department indicating that a portion of those buildings had collapsed. More victims were reported to be injured at those sites.
As the Putnam County Rescue Squad’s Structural Collapse Team worked to render the TTU building safe, EMS crews were ready to treat and transport those victims. Cookeville Regional Medical Center used the drill as a chance to set up the Upper Cumberland Region’s mobile hospital and EMS crews transported the most critically injured patients to the mobile emergency room.
The Cookeville chapter of the American Red Cross was also on hand to aid rescuers and implement their local disaster response plans. Due to CRMC being simulated as over capacity from the emergency drill, the Cookeville Surgery Center opened its doors to EMS crews to transport those less critically injured from the drill activities. The TTU Paramedic Program, under the direction of EMS Programs Director Dennis Parker, participated as patients for the mock exercise.
“We learned a lot about the coordination of all of these resources today. This has been a good chance for us to practice what we do and see how all of our individual emergency plans come together in a major event like this” stated Tyler Smith, Emergency Management Director.
The Local Emergency Planning Committee develops a disaster drill each year to practice and test emergency plans throughout the community. This year’s drill has been being planned for the last year, since the conclusion of last year’s drill. Each year the committee works to improve from the years past and make the annual event incorporate more resources.