A grain bin fire, explosion, evacuation, car accident and helicopter were all part of a full-scale training exercise held in Badger on Sat., Sept. 10, starting at 8:30 a.m. The town was full of emergency vehicles and personnel from Kingsbury County and Lake Norden, who all took part in the training throughout town.
Kingsbury County Emergency Manager Cindy Bau is responsible for holding an exercise each year for the county. This year Badger Fire Chief Ethan Fonder hosted the drill and helped with planning and finding volunteer victims.
The purpose of the exercise is to fulfill requirements for South Dakota Emergency Management and Federal Emergency Management (FEMA). Bau completes paperwork before and after the exercise to keep the county in compliance and sometimes aid in seeking federal and state grants for first responder organizations.
The annual drill is designed to evaluate emergency personnel and give them a chance to train in a real-life situation. Although a committee had met and come up with an extensive plan for the training in Badger, as with a hands-on situation, things do not always go as planned.
The morning begins with a 911 dispatcher asking for all emergency personnel to respond to a grain bin fire at the elevator in Badger.
Soon ambulance crews, fire departments and the sheriff arrive to assist. Firefighters are sent to battle the fire, and ambulance crews tend to injured workers at the elevator. The sheriff heads to the edge of town to control traffic, while others go door-to-door to evacuate the town in case of an explosion.
While firefighters work to put out the blaze, two firefighters are injured. More firefighters are sent to assist in rescuing the firefighters from the grain bin, while more EMS workers are dispatched to provide them medical attention.
EMS calls in dispatch, requesting a medical helicopter to transport some of the injured to the hospital. Two ambulances head to the park, where the helicopter is scheduled to land and pick up their patients.
Soon, the sound of the helicopter blades can be heard in the distance, and an Avera helicopter is seen flying over the town. It slowly circles and begins its descent toward the clearing in the park, when suddenly it changes direction and heads back up and away.
The flight crew had brought a larger helicopter than originally planned and didn’t feel they had enough clearance to land in the park. They changed course, landing near the grain elevator, where ambulances met them to hand off the injured patients.
Just as the helicopter began to take off and things seemed to be calming down, a 911 dispatcher called for assistance at a mock location in Badger. A vehicle had gone off the road, possibly by the driver being distracted during helicopter's departure.
Several ambulances and emergency vehicles arrived at the scene of the accident. The driver of the vehicle was hurt, along with five children. Immediately, the EMS crews worked together to assess the scene and decide which of the injured needed to be addressed first.
One of the injured children was pronounced dead at the scene, but the others were still alive and needed immediate medical assistance. EMS workers from several different ambulance crews worked together to help the victims.
One of the children hit by the car was pinned under the vehicle, so as soon as the driver and all other victims were removed from the scene, firefighters arrived with boards and blow-up devices to slowly raise the car without causing further damage to the pinned child.
Then firefighters are sent to an open area across from the elevator to put out a fire on a propane tree brought in by the fire marshal. What looks like a pathetic excuse for a Christmas tree with one large metal tube going up and four metal bars going across, turns into an immense inferno when the propane escaping from the bars is ignited.
The heat can be felt from almost a block away, and fire trucks are parked at a distance to prevent the letters from melting off the trucks. That doesn’t stop the firefighters who are wearing full gear from attacking the blaze head on.
Two groups of three or four firefighters each grab a hose and walk side-by-side toward the flames. The firefighters continue to push forward with foam and water directed toward the blaze. As flames burn in front of them and even high over top of them, they continue their battle, moving closer to the flames as though a life may depend on it.
Each group of firefighters who took turns putting out the propane blaze won their battle, but each battle was as intense as the flames coming from the propane tree.
After the extensive training drill, everyone headed to the Legion for a meal and critique.
The local Legion Auxiliary offered a meal of pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, potato salad, fruit salad and several different bars to everyone following the exercise.
Bau thanked all who attended and participated in the emergency drill. She then asked the different department heads what they thought went well and what could be improved.
Many commented on how well everyone did with so much going on and so many changes that had to be made throughout the day. The departments worked very well together, and there were no injuries except for a dog bite to one of the volunteers going door-to-door, evacuating the town.
The main critiques were some issues with communication during the event, problems with the radios and maybe having so many emergencies going on at once during training.
For the most part, everyone walked away having learned something and appreciative of the training and all those who made it possible.
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