Members of Forrest and Lamar Counties came together as part of an emergency coalition Wednesday to participate in a mass casualty disaster drill with Merit Health Wesley and Forrest General.
The drill included nearly two dozen agencies as well as volunteers who participated in the exercise.
“I think we made history today, this is the first time in the state where you have had two separate counties, two separate hospitals come together to do a drill,” said Glen Moore, Forrest County EMA director.
The scenario was based on the 2013 tornado that ripped through the area, causing a mass casualty incident, a hazardous chemical spill and a bus wreck among the damage.
“This exercise was mainly to help the hospitals to meet their exercise requirements and working with the two hospitals and working with the Forrest County Emergency Management folks,” said James Smith, Lamar County EMA director.
Around 80 students from William Carey, Southern Miss, Hattiesburg High School and Jones County EMTs got to play the victims in the drill, and all had a little fun during a day out of the classroom.
“We involved so many people and agencies in the exercise, so it gives up more of an opportunity to better prepare so that we respond better to disasters in our community,” said Wayne Landers, Forrest General Hospital director of public safety.
“We’re prepared, we found out that in a lot of our cases our plan that we have in place, our emergency operation plan, we followed it and we are very prepared for what’s to be coming in the future,” said Judy Gill, EOC chairman for Merit Health Wesley.
The agencies all gathered for a briefing and scored their performances and targeted areas for improvement for future drills, which included things like patient care, contaminating emergency rooms, decontamination facilities and patient transport into facilities.
The coalition was launched in July 2012; the Lamar County Emergency Coalition became the first organization of its kind in the state. Since 2014, members of the Lamar County Emergency Coalition have been integral in the creation of the Forrest County Emergency Coalition, and the launch of the Forrest/Lamar County joint disaster drill. The purpose of these teams is to continually improve local disaster response and joint efforts between all agencies in the event of a disaster.
Lamar County Sheriff's Department, Forrest County EMA, Lamar County EMA, ASAP Ambulance, AAA Ambulance, Department of Homeland Security, Forrest County Coroner, Forrest General Hospital, Merit Health Wesley, Hattiesburg Police and Fire, Mississippi Department of Health, MEMA, National Guard Civil Support Team, Red Cross, students and staff from William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, nursing students from William Carey and Southern Miss, Hattiesburg High School Allied Health students and Jones County EMTs all participated in the event.