The Crow Wing County fairgrounds became ground zero Thursday for a mass emergency that caused for the evacuation of residents who lived within a two-mile radius of the fairgrounds. Bomb explosions and a chlorine gas leak injured and killed about 100 people, including several police officers and firefighters.
Luckily, it was only a drill.
Crow Wing County Emergency Management, along with multiple area law enforcement and emergency personnel, conducted the emergency drill Thursday at various sites in Brainerd, including the fairgrounds, St. Joseph's Medical Center, Crow Wing County Courthouse and Brainerd Police Department.
Agencies involved included emergency management, county staff members, Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department, Brainerd Police Department, North Ambulance, Crosby Ambulance, Crow Wing County Bomb Squad, Brainerd Fire Department, St. Joseph's Medical Center and amateur radio operators. The Salvation Army and Red Cross also participated.
The drill, conducted to fulfill criteria for a Department of Homeland Security and Defense grant, began about 3 p.m. and lasted several hours. The scenario involved a terrorist group that detonated bombs at the fairgrounds and a chlorine gas leak. About 30 volunteers donated their time to play victims in the drill, often dressed in fake blood and decorated with other fake injuries. At one point during the drill, a child was supposedly missing.
Phil Miller, a Wadena police officer and a Todd County jailer, stormed the Crow Wing County Command Center van as a terrorist and opened his shirt, revealing fake pipe bombs strapped to his chest. A drill participant then let off a loud explosion nearby, simulating the pipe bomb explosion that would have killed the law enforcement personnel.
The "victims" were transported via ambulance to St. Joseph's Medical Center where hospital staff trained to handle a large influx of injured patients.
David Felkey, assistant emergency management director, said the drill allows emergency personnel to test their equipment, including the Brainerd Fire Department's new mobile decontamination unit, which could be mobilized and sent out throughout the county and surrounding areas in situations where people need to be cleaned of hazardous chemicals.
Crow Wing County Administrator Peter Herlofsky Jr. served as public information officer for the emergency drill. He said the drill gave all parties involved the opportunity to get to know one another and identify problems that could arise during an actual emergency. In a real emergency, such as a tornado or fire, the county emergency management control center likely would be based in the courthouse.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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