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North Country responders train at disaster drill
QUEENSBURY -- Less than a week after the Boston Bombings, North Country emergency responders hold a training drill at a local elementary school. Though it had been planned for months, practice held particular meaning in light of this week's news.
The sights and sounds appear real. The reality is one first responders in Warren County never want to encounter but must be ready for. "Every time we do this we learn something from it, and I don't think there's anybody anywhere that doesn't appreciate that we're practicing for this, because they know it can happen in a small town," said sheriff Bud York.
It did happen in a big town. The Boston Marathon bombings pushed emergency crews to their limits, and drove the meaning of scenario home. The drill: a bomb goes off at Queensbury Elementary School. Smoke fills the cafeteria as kids play along. Emergency crews work to find a responsible party while keeping students safe.
"I feel less scared now," said ninth-grade participant Jon Lugault. "I know what to do in case a similar situation happens."
About thirty to fifty students were brought down on a school bus to the Glens Falls Hospital emergency room which also received its own hypothetical bomb threat. "As soon as they get here we're assessing them," said Darlene Raynsford. "We're seeing what's wrong with them and making sure they get to the appropriate physician."
Hospital staff must prepare for a simultaneous mass casualty incident. Emergencies don't follow a schedule. "We actually had a group of boy scouts come in earlier this morning, unrelated, as part of the exercise to test how we can handle additional situations because people aren't going to stop going to the emergency room," Raynsford said.
The Red Cross works to help control the scene. It would act in part to connect victims and their families.
"If you've seen one disaster, you've seen one disaster," said Regional Response Manager Cheryl Murphy. "They're never the same. You learn something new every time something happens and you do your best to take notes and make changes for the next time."
Sheriff York says communication is also a primary focus during a disaster drill like this one. All other responding agencies have to be on the same page, and neighbors in the community need to know what's happening during an emergency, as well as when a drill will be held.