Local law enforcement and emergency agencies conducted a mock disaster drill Thursday with Palestine Regional Medical Center to test response procedures and overall preparedness in the event of a disaster.
Participating agencies included the Emergency Management Group — which includes directors, administration and staff of PRMC — Emergency Medical Services, the City of Palestine, the Anderson County Sheriff's Department, Palestine police and fire departments, the University of Texas at Tyler Palestine and Trinity Mother Frances Hospital's Flight For Life.
Schelby Wells, emergency management coordinator, said PRMC is required to hold drills of this kind three times per year.
“There are numerous mandates that emergency management must work under,” Wells said. “Through exercises, it improves the city's and county's response to disasters or emergencies.”
After 9/11, Wells said the federal government increased the number of drills that emergency responders must observe — to be ready in any situation.
“Communication is the key,” Wells said. “And there has to be numerous layers of communications available. In the event we lose one, we have to have backup communications, which we have achieved in our jurisdiction.”
Thursday's “disaster” involved a tornado that blazed through the county around 9 a.m. at approximately 30 mph, knocking out power lines, structures and buildings. The left wing of the PRMC West Campus building was “directly hit,” leaving 18 people injured and two deceased, according to the official scenario of the day's events.
The tornado also took out West Campus communications and utilities and damaged the psychiatric unit, “which creates another entire issue in being that you have to get the patients that are unharmed to a location where they can be secured,” Wells noted.
After the tornado “hit,” agencies flew into action with notification and response procedures. Palestine Police Chief Robert Herbert set up an incident command post, where communications were established between local law enforcement and rescue operations.