After a deadly tornado whipped through the Springfield area in 2011, devastating several communities, officials are taking steps to make sure they’re prepared, if something similar happens again somewhere in the state.
This week fire departments took a major step by running a 24-hour simulated tornado drill, modeled after the Springfield storm.
Thirty-five member teams of firefighters from Plymouth, Barnstable, Bristol, Norfolk, and Essex counties gathered at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod Wednesday morning to run drills, practice rescues, and improve their teams’ endurance, according to Duxbury Fire Chief Kevin Nord, who directed the exercise.
The teams, along with a group of National Guard members, were presented with five “areas of devastation,” according to Nord. They were instructed to extricate mannequins from debris, investigate collapsed houses, and search for victims, among other tasks.
“We had goals,” said Nord in a telephone interview this afternoon. “We needed to practice having people manage this massive workforce in a way that wasn’t redundant.”
Stephen Coan, the state’s fire marshal, said he attended the exercise and was impressed by the coordination.
“The work involved to extricate individuals in environments post-tornado is labor-intensive, dangerous, and difficult,” said Coan in a telephone interview. “This exercise provides a foundation that we will build upon in the future.”
The exercise cost about $200,000 and took several months to plan, said Nord. The departments received the funds from the Department of Homeland Security, according to Coan.
Overall, Nord said the exercise was a success. The entire team will review a report on the exercise, to be drafted over the next few days, and discuss strengths and weaknesses, he said.
“We did well,” said Nord. “We can deploy very rapidly in great depth.”