Apple Creek Estates serves as stage for mock disaster
A portion of the Apple Creek Estates subdivision was the setting for a mock disaster involving 75 to 100 emergency rescue personnel Oct. 20.
The rehearsed scenario seemingly left students at a nearby school injured and houses in disrepair, all in the name of training.
The McHenry County Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) Division 5 tested various phases of its disaster plan throughout most of the morning.
Rich Tobiasz, chief of the Spring Grove Fire Protection District, led the event in conjunction with other fire districts in the county.
“This opportunity and location made for a perfect setup for this type of training, so we staged the disaster here,” Tobiasz said.
In the simulated event, a weather incident was reported outside Creekside Middle School in the fictional town of Centerville. Initial responders from the North Central Squad — Spring Grove, Richmond, Wonder Lake and Hebron fire departments — were given the responsibility of responding, establishing command, patient triage and transport to nearby hospitals.
Within minutes the firefighters and emergency medical technicians were on the scene, treating patients.
“At 6:11 a.m. this morning, the Spring Grove Fire Protection District dispatched to Centerville due to reported debris,” Tobiasz reported to the media immediately after patients were assessed. “During an overnight event, the students [heard some loud rumblings outside]. Debris was flying, hit some of them. We have 21 total patients.”
Four were tagged red, which meant they were in the worst condition. Nine were tagged yellow, with moderate injuries, and eight were tagged green and had mild injuries. In the scenario, one teenager was reported missing, and some of the MABAS responders had to look for him.
Rick Gallas, chief of Richmond Township Fire Protection District, was charged with overseeing the rehab station on site. The station provided medical evaluations to the firefighters on scene.
“They’re coming into a controlled environment,” Gallas said. “They’ll have their vitals taken. If they’re out of their limits, we’ll transport them to a hospital.”
Gallas said fire departments have made a strong commitment to making sure firefighters are healthy after exiting an emergency scene. Statistics show more than 50 percent of the line-of-duty deaths in fire service are the result of heart attacks.
After responding to the school call, the McHenry County task force took over command of the scene and addressed issues at two other sites that were determined by the Community Emergency Response Teams to have damage.
“These areas were planned developments which are being demolished,” Tobiasz said. Pat Givens purchased the property after the subdivision failed to develop as planned. He has since returned the land back to farming and offered Woodstock Fire/Rescue District use of the homes for training.
In the event of a real county disaster, it is likely a neighboring task force — such as Lake County — would be dispatched to assist, as McHenry County emergency personnel would be first responders to the scene. The McHenry County task force assists outside the county, having assisted after a tornado in Utica and during Hurricane Katrina, for example.
WFRD Chief Ralph Webster said the WFRD staged the other two sites, damaging model homes and burning one down completely.
At the remaining scenes, responders assisted in rescuing victims from the homes. Some of the staged injuries were fatal.
“It’s really been a nice training asset,” Webster said of homes. Fire departments, police departments and McHenry County College fire safety classes have all used the locations to stage training exercises.
“All of these training components don’t always come together like this,” said Commander Duane Cedergren of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office. “Communication is key among all [responders] involved and we don’t always get to test it [in a real-life setting].”