By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
“I was blown away at the level of performance of the volunteers and I made the comment to a couple of them that I would put our volunteer guys up against paid services,” 911 Director Mike Simmons said. “They are phenomenal. It was really impressive.”
The Tucker County Commission also heard about the recent Mass Casualty Incident Training from Emergency Management Director Kevin White at the Commission’s August 9th meeting. “We were involved with…the MCI that was held this past Saturday,” White said. “Commissioner Davis was there. We had 50-some participants from all the local Fire, Law, EMS, everything. It was a very, very good training class.”
According to OEM Director, Kevin White, the Mass Casualty scenario involved a school bus. “Everybody come together and of course it is a situation we hope we are never faced with,” White said. “We did a school bus, a log truck and a passenger car all involved. We had 14 victims scattered out throughout the scene, inside the vehicles, outside the vehicles.”
White said the event was held in real time. “And we did it in real time so even though we were all standing there on scene in all our own little corners, Mike (Simmons) had to dispatch them out, wait 20 minutes until they arrived because they were coming from Parsons to Route 90,” White said. “It wasn’t like we all just converged. We did it realistically. We used approximate times for how long it would take Thomas to get from their station to Route 90. They had a five-minute response time. We knew Parsons come up the mountain. They were going to be like a 20-minute response time for them. So, they couldn’t play until they had waited that amount of time out.”
According to White, the training was designed to test as well as instruct. “It tested your resources. It made you make due with what you had until the rest of it got there,” White said.
Tucker County Commissioner Fred Davis commented on how difficult it was for crews to cut into the top of a school bus during the training. “One thing that we talked about up there that a lot of people don’t understand,” Davis said, “even the firemen didn’t, how tough a school bus really is just to cut a roof off. That metal is tough.”
“The standard First Responder is used to cutting up a vehicle,” White said. “When you cut up a passenger car or truck, you’re used to going through one layer of a thin metal to be quite honest with you. And most of our equipment is based on that.”
White said that many fire fighters at the training were surprised by the construction of the bus. “A school bus is about four inches thick because you got a layer, you got a frame, you got another layer. And we didn’t tell anybody what to expect so when the newer guys that hadn’t done anything like that before grabbed this particular saw, they ran up, they started cutting and they found out that ‘My blade didn’t go all the way through. Now I have to go to Plan B.’”
White said incidents such as those were the reason for the training. “Now, that’s why we did stuff like that,” White said. “So that they will be ready, prepared when it, if the situation would ever provide itself. Hopefully it never does.”
“That’s what’s so vital about these trainings,” Tucker County Commissioner Mike Rosenau said. “Its wonderful and I commend the volunteers that took their Saturday to try to help them make their jobs better and easier for the public. They’re volunteering and the Commission wants to put out there how grateful we are as a Commission that they work so hard for our community as a volunteer.”
“I feel we’re very fortunate in Tucker County with the volunteers we have,” White said. “Honestly, nationwide, not just in the State of West Virginia, volunteerism is dying extensively, including fire departments. It used to be a staple.”
White said that while local fire departments struggled, they have remained constant. “Other volunteer organizations may go down, but fire departments always stayed level. But across the nation, volunteerism is dying extensively. In Tucker County with the Fire Departments, not so much. We are struggling a little bit with membership, but our organizations are at the same membership they have been for years.”
White said he feels fortunate that Tucker County volunteers are dedicated. “So we are very fortunate that our guys are dedicated and it still fosters those younger kids to come up because they still see that commitment.”
The next meeting of the Tucker County Commission will be held on August 23rd at 6 p.m. at the Tucker County Courthouse Old Courtroom in Parsons.