Wichita County runs emergency drill

Wichita County_It could have been a real tornado that touched down in Wichita County on Tuesday.  It wasn't real, but when the sirens sounded, the response was immediate.  First responders took part in an exercise to determine how the emergency plan would work should a twister actually touch down in the city.  The operation was part of a joint exercise between Wichita Falls, Wichita County, and Sheppard Air Force Base, and was conducted just outside of the gates of the base.  The scenario included a dozens of tornado 'victims' whose injuries ranged from minor to fatal, a 'chemical spill' on McKinney road, and more.

Emergency management officials say the exercise went well.  In a real emergency, emergency workers could face badly injured - or even dead - victims, hazardous waste removal, or much more.  On Tuesday, actors were victims for the drill, and Preparedness Coordinator John Henderson had a birds-eye view of the unfolding scenario.  "It's a lot better to get it done now rather than when the action happens," he said.

Henderson says the drill gives the city, county and Air Force base a chance to practice working and communicating together.  "During an actual event, things never are never like they planned," he said.  "You may plan for the best-case-scenario, but something's still gonna throw a wrench into the cog."

Wichita County Emergency Management Coordinator Lee Bourgoin says that they try to do this sort of exercise once per year.  "It's to make sure everybody knows everybody - you have a lot of turnover at Sheppard, and in the county, and city," he said.  "To not only respond to citizens or injured people, but how we network with the other entities," said Henderson.  "So, we're all talking to each other to make the whole response better."  It also gives them the opportunity to check equipment that may have been sitting unused all winter.

The day began with simulated weather warnings at about five in the morning, and the exercise lasted until about noon.  The Wichita County Emergency Management Director says Tuesday's drill was enacted with as much reality as they could put into it.  Police and fire officials were at work as if it was a regular working day, and calls were dispatched just as they would have been in an actual emergency.

City and county officers say they like to run emergency drills on a large scale just before storm season so they can test their equipment and communications network.