The Central New York Region of the American Red Cross held a Regional Disaster Drill June 1 at Christ Community Church in Syracuse. The purpose of the drill was for Red Cross staff members, volunteers and community partners to practice and improve the skills needed to respond to a large-scale disaster in the region.
Organized by Emergency Service Managers Kevin Carpenter and Rick Larson, the drill simulated a hazardous chemical spill on Route 481 in Clay and the subsequent evacuation of thousands of residents as shifting winds spread toxic fumes across the area.
More than 100 Red Cross staff members, disaster volunteers and community partners participated in the drill, with community volunteers serving as people who were displaced from their homes by the truck accident. The drill involved Red Cross personnel from all 16 counties in the Central New York Region.
It was the first Regional Disaster Drill since the current Central New York Region was formed one year ago, and the Regional Disaster Leadership Team has been working for the past year to build the Region’s capacity to respond.
“The immense amount of human and material resources that we have in the Central New York Region strengthens our ability to respond to a Level 2 or 3 Disaster such as this one,” said Carpenter, the Emergency Services Manager for Tompkins, Cortland, and Cayuga counties. “We still have some work to do, but the drill demonstrated that ability to respond.”
The drill was part functional – disaster responders performed duties such as setting up a shelter, feeding clients and providing client case work – and part “tabletop,” where Red Cross leadership received disaster information and make decisions about how to handle what was happening.
“Kevin and I want to thank everyone for participating in the drill last Saturday and for getting so many volunteers involved,” Larson said. “I thought it was a good measuring tool for us for our work in the future.”