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Posted on: June 30, 2023

Departments prepare for mass disaster

Friday, June 30, 2023

AUBURN – Representatives from the Auburn Fire Department joined representatives from neighboring first responder agencies and support agencies on Thursday to prepare for the worst case scenario.

Area first responders gathered Thursday at the Community Learning Center in Kendallville for a table top training exercise to help them prepare for a scenario which would require multiple departments. The scenario centered around a train wreck on the DeKalb/Noble county lRetired Chief Mike VanZileine, similar to the one that happened in Palestine, Ohio in February 3.

If it were to happen here, area responders will have a much better idea on how to deal with the emergency after planning and thinking things through during the three hour training.

The training exercise was led by Noble County EMA Director Gabe Creech, DeKalb County EMA Director Jason Meek and retired Auburn Fire Chief Mike VanZile, who now works with DeKalb County’s Homeland Security Office.

One of the main topics stressed during the exercise was the need for cooperation between the departments.

A big component to a major disaster is the major response which would follow. First responders from as far away as Elkhart and Fort Wayne would likely make the scene. Having places for the large contingent of equipment to stage and someone to manage that is a major issue in a scenario such as this.

The parameters of the scenario were themselves problematic, which was the intent of the incident. It was set up to be a challenge with key areas to consider. The accident happened on the Noble/DeKalb county line at 9 a.m. in the morning, which is a challenge to area departments with manpower. The derailment location was close to U.S. 6 a major roadway, which handles a large amount of vehicles on a daily basis. The spill included a release of vinyl chloride, a hazardous chemical.

Creech described the scenario as a “nightmare.”

By working through such an incident, even if it’s only on paper, would make the “real deal” all the more manageable.

“We’re thinking of the bigger picture,” Creech said. “That was the point of this exercise.”

Photo and story information credit Matt Getts, editor The News Sun, Kendallville. 

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