Crash simulation delayed

Training resources depleted by Gulf Coast efforts

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— A simulated airplane crash intended to help local emergency officials plan for and respond to mass-casualty events has been delayed because of a lack of resources.

Chuck Vale, Routt County's director of emergency management, said the simulation scheduled for Oct. 2 at Yampa Valley Regional Airport would have required assistance from local law enforcement agencies and Steamboat Springs and Routt County and Moffat County officials.

Hurricane Katrina has depleted resources at the local and national levels, Vale said, and there simply weren't enough people to facilitate the planned mass-casualty exercise.

Many local firefighters, police officers, nurses, emergency medical technicians and others have gone to the Gulf Coast in the past month to help with rescue and relief efforts there, Vale said. Vale spent a couple of weeks working in Louisiana last month.

"I use an incredible base of volunteers for these exercises," he said. "There was just no way we could have pulled it off."

Instead, the drill will be scheduled for April or May, Vale said. The delay will allow emergency responders more planning time for the exercise and will allow Vale to use some of the things he learned from his time in Louisiana.

"We're actually going to have a better exercise in the spring because of this," he said.

The simulated airplane crash will be the last part of a three-part exercise that began in December 2004.

The county conducts full-scale simulations annually. An airplane crash is simulated every three years at YVRA.

The most recent simulation included a tabletop discussion in June designed to give officials the chance to talk about an accident without actually participating in a drill.

The airplane disaster drill scheduled for spring will involve people acting as crash victims and emergency crews from throughout the county responding to the accident.

Craig resources also will be used because of that city's proximity to YVRA, Vale said.

Past simulations have included school bus accidents and gas explosions. The exercises serve as training for emergency personnel and an opportunity for Vale and other officials to discuss and improve disaster planning and responses.

"My hope is to get all the players that would be involved in a large-scale, mass-casualty accident better prepared to respond," Vale said. "Is it training? Absolutely. Is it writing better plans for the future? Absolutely."

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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