An extensive exercise designed to test the disaster response system across the nation is occurring this week and more than 300 personnel from 21 Midlands area agencies and nine hospitals plan to participate.
The National Disaster Medical System exercise began Monday with the scenario of a 7.7 magnitude earthquake near Memphis that results in 2,300 fatalities and 56,000 injured. The Army’s Federal Coordinating Center from Fort Jackson and the South Carolina Forestry Commission are managing the local effort which would handle a number of the casualties. State Forestry Commission Public Information Officer Scott Hawkins says personnel in the Midlands swung into action Tuesday morning.
As part of the exercise, the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission hangar at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport is being used as an emergency hospital for a portion of the casualties from the fictional earthquake.
Hawkins says the Midlands was chosen as an integral part of the exercise because of the critical services provided by Fort Jackson and the South Carolina Forestry Commission. He says the exercise brings together federal, state, and local jurisdictions to improve communications and create future joint operating procedures to respond to an actual national disaster. Hawkins says, even though the earthquake for this particular exercise is fictitious, it gives agencies a chance to test, critique, and enhance the overall emergency response system. With the existence of the New Madrid Fault in the central U.S., an earthquake occurring in that region is not that farfetched.