Emergency crews drill in Goat Fest parking lot

Friday, October 9, 2009

Volunteers and public safety employees practicing their life-saving skills conducted an emergency drill at a Goat Fest parking lot Tuesday when the mock emergency was something that could happen at a festival.

"It was a simulated propane tank explosion with about 20 casualties," Lewisburg Police Chief Chuck Forbis explained while the "injured survivors" were being "treated" in the Emergency Room at Marshall Medical Center.

Forbis didn't know what caused the mock explosion.

"I guess it's because Bob Hopkins said it did," said Forbis, deferring to the director of the Marshall County Emergency Management Agency who organized the drill.

EMA Director Hopkins explained by using the acronym BLEVE, pronounced BLEV-ee, for a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion.

"One of the cooks was checking out his equipment and it bleved," Hopkins said.

For the sake of the drill, emergency responders were told that a cook's propane tank ruptured and the resulting BLEVE made the tank a flaming rocket, shooting up from the festival and landing in the parking lot.

A blue, plastic, 55-gallon drum was placed on the lot to simulate the tank at ground zero for the drill.

Misty Speegle, 28, of Lawrenceburg, a nursing student at a Tennessee Technology Center, had fake wounds applied to her face to indicate she suffered multiple-trauma from the blast. She was tagged "DOA" at the scene by one of the emergency responders.

Several of her classmates were similarly prepared for the drill and the lessons to be learned.

"Believe it or not," paramedic Jeff Skinner of the Marshall County Emergency Medical Service said, "a broken arm isn't an emergency. It's a walking wounded."

Triage, the sorting out process to recognize who needs help first and who can wait, was part of the drill, and Skinner drove the point home about how lifesaving steps must be deliberate. For example, the administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, CPR, may not be a good decision.

"Once you start CPR, you don't stop," he said.

CPR might not save that one patient while the emergency responder might have been able to save others.

Evacuating victims from a contaminated area is just as important as restraint by responders who should wait for clearance.

"A dead paramedic is not a paramedic," he said.

EMS Director James Whorley concurred: "A lot of times, people don't think we're dong our job, but if we go in and get killed, we can't help anybody."

And they must be aware of surrounding conditions. Tuesday, they didn't want to be downwind of the volatile gas.

"I do this every year," Kent Sweeton, a chemist with the Lewisburg Water and Wastewater Department said. "It's something different each year."

Some drills are more dramatic than others.

"We've done everything from a sniper on a roof to radiological detectable events, tornados and terrorist attacks," Hopkins said.

Many Tennesseans may remember the railroad car's propane tank explosion in Waverly, or the more recent BLEVE in Memphis, and there was one at train tracks and Old Belfast Road nearly two decades ago when a 30,000 tank went across a road, cleared power lines and landed in a field. Several people died.

At the drill Tuesday, County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said he was impressed with the "seriousness that everybody took in performing their tasks."