Did you notice fire trucks and ambulances surrounding industrial buildings and then closing down Water and Brunner streets in Peru Thursday morning?
It was only a drill.
The drill scenario was that a collision between a boat and a barge at the Flint Hills Resources plant in Peru resulted in an explosion that killed seven people and sent another 11 to the Illinois Valley Community Hospital emergency room.
One of the goals of the exercise was to test the effectiveness of the SIREN emergency notification system, an automated method of finding and asking off-duty IVCH employees by text, email and phone if they could report to work. The result: 238 replied almost immediately that they could come in to help deal with the emergency, according to a press release.áThe number increased as the day progressed and more off-duty employees learned of the messages.
The planned event gave the organizations the opportunity to work together in a learning environment, to build relationships among response partners and strengthen community preparedness.
Those involved were La Salle County Emergency Management Agency, Flint Hills Resources, Peru fire and police departments, La Salle County Coroner, Illinois Valley Community Hospital, Peru EMS, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Coast Guard, American Red Cross and Salvation Army.
“Training on emergency plans and testing them through exercises is the best, most efficient way to ensure that the plans work and meet the needs for the community. Exercises also foster new and enhance community response partnerships. It’s best to know someone beforehand and what they bring to the table when something happens, before it happens,” said Connie Brooks, La Salle County Emergency Management Agency director.
A full-scale exercise means that assets were deployed for the exercise, and there were many moving parts.
Planning for this exercise began last September.
“We are happy to host this exercise on behalf of the many businesses like ours that operate along the river. We value the relationships that we have with our local emergency response partners and look forward to working collaboratively to carry out this important emergency response exercise. The safety of our employees, neighbors and the environment is at the core of everything we do at Flint Hills Resources,” said Chris Eager, plant manager.
“This was the first time we had used the SIREN system in this situation and we were impressed not only with the way our employees responded but also with the efficiency of the system itself,” said Robert Fortney, IVCH’s chief nursing officer and incident commander during the drill.
Fortney said the purpose of the drill was to test IVCH’s overall disaster preparedness, surge capacity, and decontamination techniques that are infrequently practiced. He said the ER staff was at full capacity treating actual patients during the drill but still did an excellent job in handling the exercise’s demands.