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ASU Emergency Exercise Tests Local Agencies

By Ben Wofford

April 2, 2012. River Street became the artificial scene of a chemical explosion on Friday, March 30.

From 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. firefighters, medics and police swarmed the Chemistry, Astronomy and Physics (CAP) building on Appalachian State University’s campus.

The exercise simulated a mass casualty incident initiated by a chemical explosion in a CAP building laboratory, said Seth Norris, director of Environmental Health, Safety and Emergency Management at ASU.

Norris said there were approximately 60 firefighters, police officers and medics participating in the exercise, which required, among other things, proper communication between all parties and the evacuation of victims.

Student volunteers played the part of victims and were dressed in makeup to reproduce an emergency scenario.

Erica Weiner, a student, volunteered to participate through the nursing program at ASU.

“They put us in an ambulance, drove us to [the] Blowing Rock hospital and did a check up as they would if [a chemical explosion] really did happen,” Weiner said.

Craig Sullivan, director of Watauga Medics Inc., said Boone fire and police departments, Blowing Rock and Watauga Rescue squads, Wings Air Rescue from Johnson City, Caldwell and Ashe Counties were all involved in the exercise.

Mobilizing these emergency agencies was not done for free, however.

According to Norris, the exercise cost approximately $4,500, which does not include in-kind labor cost. The exercise did not require any funding from ASU because it was funded through a grant from Watauga County.

Crews and administration involved in the simulation will not see results of today’s exercise for at least a month’s time, however initial impressions of the exercise were optimistic.

The full evaluation of the exercise will not be made public.

“We certainly learned many valuable lessons which is a very positive thing and what exercises like this are for,” Norris said.

Video by Ben Wofford & Paul T. Choate


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