GOSHEN - Orange County recently participated in a multi-jurisdiction, multi-discipline, full scale exercise in Sparrowbush, Town of Deerpark, designed to enhance the skills of emergency responders and to facilitate inter-county and inter-agency mutual aid in response to a large scale rail incident. First responders, working in conjunction with Metro-North Railroad, New Jersey Transit, and Orange County Department of Emergency Services took part in the event, which took a year to plan and drew in over 100 active participants.
"This exercise is an example of the ‘can do’ spirit that is inherent in our local and county emergency services personnel. They truly exemplify what public service is all about," said Orange County Executive Edward A. Diana. "I would like to thank all of the responders, volunteers from the community, and the many organizations and agencies who participated in this exercise."
Volunteers from all over Orange County began arriving at the Sparrowbush Engine Company at approximately 7:00 a.m. preparing for their assignments by listening to mission and safety briefings. The exercise was set into motion shortly thereafter with a Metro-North commuter train smoking on the tracks while adjacently two school buses were overturned on their sides. "Casualties" included small teddy bears with tags affixed to them indicating their injuries, in addition to live individuals.
"It is not every day that an exercise of this size and complexity can be planned, staged and fully executed using actual ‘real world’ props and personnel," said Walter C. Koury, Commissioner Orange County Department of Emergency Services. "Bringing together agencies from around the county demonstrated the need for a continued and coordinated response effort."
The exercise commenced with a simulated 911 call detailing the train and bus scenario, after which came the arrival of the first fire department responder taking charge and calling for the "resources" required to provide life-saving assistance to 65 simulated "victims" on scene. Emergency services personnel utilized special tools and equipment to extricate victims from the train and buses while EMS personnel established triage where each and every "victim" was evaluated and treated.
After the official conclusion of the exercise, participants exchanged ideas during a "hot wash." An informal informational session where everyone is encouraged to voice their opinion of what practices worked during the exercise and how to improve others. Most said that the experience was a great opportunity to be able to work together as a team.
Deputy Commissioner of the County’s Fire Services Vini Tankasali said that the lessons learned at the exercise were invaluable as they skill set the firefighters worked on may be applied so many disaster situations.
Deputy Commissioner Division of Emergency Services Seamus K. Leary thanked the participants for giving up part of their weekend to prepare and train to help serve and protect the public.