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FEMA Holds Major Earthquake Response Drill in Springfield

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FEMA, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is holding drills across six states this week to see how prepared it is for a national catastrophic event. As Jennifer Moore reports from Springfield, FEMA is teaming up with the military, as well as local hospitals, shelters and morgues for the major drill.

[Sound: voices, ambulances parking]

Several local ambulances, with their lights ablaze, arrive at the old terminal of the Springfield-Branson National Airport. Each one is loaded with two mannequins meant to represent the injured. Military personnel, who have flown in from every corner of the country, take turns unloading the mannequins and wheeling them into a large prepping room. There, doctors, nurses and medical techs receive each mock patient…each mannequin is identified by name and age. There’s even a mock intensive care unit, where one patient needs an amputation and another is about to be intubated.

[Sound: working on ‘patient’]

Lieutenant Colonel Andree Swanson has worked with the Air Force Reserves for over 20 years, and is based at Fort Scott just outside St. Louis. She says this drill is a simulation of how the federal government would respond in the event of a large earthquake along the New Madrid Fault line.

If that were to happen, she said, local hospitals would fill up very quickly.

“So we have to get the ‘patients’ to other medical facilities. So they are bringing them here to the Springfield terminal, and coming however they can bring them: by ambulance, by pickup truck, whatever. Then we prep them here to put them on an airplane to take them to whatever location can support the patients,” Swanson said.

[Sound: C-130s taking off]

Soldiers and FEMA personnel carefully load the mannequins onto C-130 military airplanes, from which point they fly to other major hospitals around the country—in Kansas City, Omaha, Des Moines, and Shreveport.

Beth Freeman is the regional administrator for FEMA Region 7 in Kansas City. She said teamwork between federal, state and local responders is crucial…but that it takes practice, thus the exercise.

“In the real event, we’re gonna really rely on local responders, local law enforcement, the emergency managers, and local elected officials will be very important to the recovery and response,” she said.Also at the drill this week in Springfield were evaluators with their notepads, carefully watching every move and jotting down notes. The drill encompassed six states and multiple branches of the military.For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.