Nearly 100 years after a train explosion decimated downtown Ardmore, first responders engaged in an exercise designed to respond to a similar catastrophe.
Wednesday morning, member of the Ardmore Police and Fire Departments were joined by area, county, state and federal officials in a two-hour exercise. The “explosion” occurred around 9:40 a.m. at which point first responders sprung to action. Volunteers lined the streets on both sides of Main Street simulating injured and deceased citizens as the different agencies worked together out of a central headquarters based out of the Carter County Health Department.
“I think everything went very well,” Ardmore Fire Chief Cary Williamson said. “As we expected, there were some issues we can improve on and the purpose of the exercise is to reveal those things and we will work to improve it.”
Williamson said 80 people took part in the exercise representing the Southern Oklahoma Ambulance Service, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Carter County Sheriff’s Department, FBI, Michelin, Valero, Carter County Health Department and Ardmore City Schools. The Highway Patrol provided its mobile command center. The scope of the exercise was a half-mile from the train tracks on Main Street.
“It is a good learning experience if anything happens,” Ardmore Police Chief Ken Grace said. “We can all critique it to find out what when wrong and see how well we all work together.”
Williamson said the biggest positive from the exercise is all involved were able to work in a unified command, which is not always the case.
“We were able to get together and deal with the issues presented,” Williamson said. “On a mass casualty incident like this, it is always a chore and challenge for first responders and the hospital and they did an exceptional job with the numbers they had to work with.”
As part of the scenario, City Manager J.D. Spohn and Mayor John Moore were casualties. Assistant City Manager Kevin Boatright moved into the main leadership role for the city government and said the exercise is beneficial for all involved.
“I think anytime you have an exercise that is multi jurisdictional or multi agency it helps,” Boatright said. “Anytime you have those type of exercises you learn to work with other agencies and learn how to use your resources.
“In the unforeseen event something would happen, it helps make the other agencies prepared.”