Almost 100 volunteers, hospital employees, local emergency responders, county school system employees and university employees will take part in a mock disaster drill Tuesday on Tennessee Tech University's campus.
The drill, which will begin at 8:30 a.m., will test the preparedness and response of local, regional, state and federal agencies should a real crisis occur. The drill also is designed to test communication abilities of all the responding agencies in the region. Organizers caution that the event is a significant exercise; the local community can expect to see emergency responders acting as they would in a true disaster.
"Even as a drill, the scene will appear real and the action will be intense," said Tommy Copeland, Putnam County Emergency Medical Services assistant director and chairperson of the Local Emergency Planning Committee. "These drills are important learning exercises that help us keep our responses and communication effective.
"These drills also allow us to strengthen the positive relationships we have among all the agencies and organizations participating," said Copeland. "How we all work together and share the responsibility of keeping our community safe is key."
The scenario for the practice event includes a school bus filled with drama students playing roles as injured and threatened children. The event includes a hostage situation in TTU's Tech Village. Portions of Laurel Avenue and Ninth Street will be closed to regular traffic during the drill. Willow Avenue from Fourth to 12th Streets may be congested with emergency vehicles. Fourth Street, Seventh Street and Cedar Avenue may also be congested.
"Our continued partnership with all groups involved in the Local Emergency Planning Committee is essential to our successful preparations and response to any crisis situation that may occur across Putnam County," said Jerry Boyd, Putnam County Schools director. "The drill on TTU's campus involving several county and city emergency response agencies as well as a group of volunteer Putnam County School System high school students and employees will provide us an opportunity to assess and evaluate our own crisis response plan in a live, but controlled, situation.
"If a true large-scale crisis situation were to occur in Putnam County, we realize that the schools will have some role in directly supporting the response by all of the agencies. Thus, the opportunity to be engaged in a drill is something we know will only improve our continued preparations to both prevent and respond to any crisis that we may face as a county and a school system," Boyd said.
As the mock event moves to Cookeville Regional Medical Center, the CRMC staff will focus on response plans to manage a sudden influx of patients, media, concerned community members and the "worried well" to the hospital.
Many participants will be looking and acting as they would in a true disaster. Normal hospital emergency department operations and patient care will not be affected by the drill in any way.
The full-scale mock drill is being conducted in collaboration with multiple partner agencies including Tennessee Tech, Cookeville City Police and Fire Departments, Putnam County Emergency Management Agency, Putnam County E-911, Putnam County School System, Tennessee Department of Health, Federal Bureau of Investigation and CRMC.
"We have been a member of the Putnam County LEPC for years and actively participate," said TTU Police Chief Gay Shepherd. "We are excited to host another drill this year and work with all of our partners in Putnam County."
The drill should conclude by 11 a.m. If you have questions or concerns, call the emergency services information line at (931) 646-INFO (4636).