Readying for Disaster Response
The detonation of a “dirty bomb” is a catastrophe no one wishes to conjure; yet, as one of Kent County’s first responders, KCRC must be ready to take action should a crisis of that magnitude occur. Exercising preparedness is what prompted KCRC personnel to participate in NORTHERN EXPOSURE 2015, the state-wide emergency response simulation that integrated local, state and federal response to a catastrophic event.
“In the 43 years that I’ve worked at the road commission, we have never had the opportunity to exercise with the cities and National Guard as a unified response,” said Tom Byle, KCRC’s Assistant Director of Engineering who coordinated the participation of KCRC along with other Public Works departments from neighboring cities.
“We are very fortunate that we have never had a disaster that would require this type of unified response, but it is good practice for tornadoes, windstorms, flooding – even snow removal if the storm is heavy enough. I told people not to focus on the “dirty bomb” aspect of the exercise; it’s about route clearance and dealing with victims.”
On Thursday, June 25, KCRC crews gathered at Butterworth Landfill to practice integrated response efforts. During the simulation, KCRC cleared the roadways of piled cars and heavy debris while Grand Rapids Fire Department and National Guard extricated “victims” from smashed cars and initiated medical response.
“It was a cool experience,” said KCRC’s Rick Lee, who drove the lift during route clearance. “I was impressed with how professional everyone was; even though it was an exercise, everyone took it seriously and was hustling. I feel fortunate to have been a part of it.”
Tom Byle said that he hopes additional simulation exercises can be planned in the future. “If not with state and federal agencies, I think we could plan smaller exercises to practice unified response of local agencies.”