Dordt practices for disaster

Evangeline Colarossi — Staff Writer

SB 1606 was converted to a War Room: Incident Command last Thursday evening. Thirty-five community members and Dordt campus officials met to hold a tornado drill. This drill was not for students, but for those in charge of emergency actions and responsible to ensure safety and take the correct precautions.

Dordt’s Cabinet Response Team, various staff, and maintenance members took part in this drill. From the community, representatives of Sioux Center Fire and Police attended, along with Nathan Huizinga, the County Emergency Manager. Howard Wilson and Professor Donald Roth headed up most of the drill, though all involved participated with varying amounts of responsibility.

For two hours, the emergency teams switched jobs, designated tasks and solved even the most unlikely of issues, from social media disasters to fielding a barrage of phone calls from concerned parents. The teams prepared for everything and lacked nothing. A common phrase through the training was “focus on the worst first.” Though this was only a drill, the exercise was taken very seriously.

Participants received slips of paper with tasks on them. These tasks designated a job that needed to be overseen by the person with the paper. If that person was asked to help with a different job, they needed to find someone else to take over their task. This ensured that people were covering all needed areas, yet if they needed more hands in a certain area, there were others available to help.

Some aspects of the drill were expected: If a building was destroyed, they needed to account for any possible missing or injured persons. In an actual situation, the teams would need to handle this task with many others at the same time. Unexpected scenarios would be shouted out to keep the team members alert and help them develop the ability to respond quickly and wisely to things they would not expect.

The last drill like this occurred four years ago, when an active dorm fire and active shooter simulation took place. Over 80 hours of planning went into this drill, which could have been more in depth had time allowed.

“It’s our hope to start to go through preparedness exercises of some variety on amore regular basis,” said Roth. Dordt has a book of policies and plans for numerous critical situations but having to practice those plans actively is a crucial task.

“Plans rarely survive long into an actual emergency unless they are both deeply ingrained into the responders and carefully calibrated to the needs of that crisis,” said Roth. Drills test the strengths and weaknesses of each plan and require the response teams to learn these plans, rather than read them from a book.

“Simulations like this tabletop exercise are one way to further both of these goals without having to wait to learn from painful experience,” said Roth.

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