Shared experiences preparing for emergencies kept participants focused during a disaster drill Oct. 30 involving the actual evacuation of the Chamois School District to an American Red Cross Heart of Missouri Chapter shelter at Linn State Technical College.
“We’ve both been through scenarios like this before” said Mike Bumgarner, the Chamois superintendent. “It was like an instant comfort. We understood each other’s roles. I knew what I had to do to come across with documentation. She (Donna Zeilmann, the Red Cross shelter coordinator) knew where she might have to pick up the ball if this were a long-duration event.”
The drill scenario involved an anhydrous ammonia leak at the MFA plant in Chamois, a small town along the Missouri River in northern Osage County. The leak was part of a chain reaction of events that involved: the driver of the anhydrous truck experiencing a medical problem inside the MFA building; no one being able to stop the leak at the truck and outside storage tank; an MFA employee being exposed to the gas; an automobile accident in the area; a nervous community; and the school’s evacuation.
Red Cross volunteers set up the shelter in Linn State’s multi-purpose building, which is about 25 miles from Chamois near Linn. The shelter also served as a reunification point for students and their parents or guardians.
“This gives us really good insight as to what we would do in a real event,” said Phillip Iman, a chapter disaster specialist who served as an evaluator during the drill. “As far as Red Cross volunteers, I think we interacted well with the school. They (school officials) took charge, which is exactly what they should have done. We assisted. I’m real pleased with that.”
Emergency responders from Chamois, Morrison, Osage County, area law enforcement agencies and fire departments, the Meremac Regional Planning Commission along with state agencies and officials also took part in the drill in other locations.
“Red Cross is an important partner to us in this process,” Bumgarner said. “They were involved in the very early planning stages for this event. There is tremendous agreement in principle between myself and Red Cross in terms of what our respective areas are. As soon as they found out we were actually going to do parent unification I got good and appropriate response from the Red Cross.”
Once buses carrying students arrived at Linn State, teachers, at the direction of chapter volunteers, led their students to the registration/unification area. A Red Cross volunteer then escorted elementary students and teachers to the basement area, while volunteers directed the high school entourage to the gymnasium on the main level.
As parents arrived, some before the buses, and completed proper authorizations, school officials released the students. Others whose parents didn’t come were bused back to school.
The drill involved 104 elementary students, 51 high school students and 36 teachers and staff. Red Cross had five volunteers assisting school personnel.
“This gives us an idea of how many people we would need to send to an event like this,” said Iman, who was involved in planning the exercise. “I wasn’t sure if would need six people, or if would we need two. I didn’t know how many.
“We will use this as a learning tool and make plans as needed for the future.”