As emergency management teams participated in statewide testing for response procedures Tuesday, an unexpected phone outage, which was not part of the exercise, occurred at two of Shawnee’s largest medical facilities.

As emergency management teams participated in statewide testing for response procedures Tuesday, an unexpected phone outage, which was not part of the exercise, occurred at two of Shawnee’s largest medical facilities.

Unity Health Center participated in the exercises but lost phone service during the procedures; officials there said the down phone services were not a part of the simulation.

Kim White, marketing manager for Shawnee Medical Center Clinic, confirmed the clinic was also without phone service until late in the afternoon.

The Shawnee Red Cross and a core group of  six volunteers and one staff member also participated in emergency response exercises of their own.

The crew simulated their response to a fictional tornado hitting the Dale area, and the team had to set up a simulated shelter for 50 to 60 people at the McLoud Baptist Church.

The crew also had to simulate a mass feeding for victims of the simulated natural disasters.

“We are taking notes as we go along ... to improve our process, which is why we do this,” Disaster Service Specialist Rob Speight said. “We’re suppose to screw up, we are suppose to make mistakes ... so that we can learn from those mistakes.”

The mistakes made during the simulation tests will help the organization be prepared in a real-life event, Speight said.

As part of the tests, the Red Cross crews have to post signs identifying the shelter sites for victims and any victims coming into the shelters must first sign in and register with the Red Cross, which would also occur in a real-crisis scenario. Once the media comes to a shelter, the Red Cross must notify those staying there and then allow the victims to leave the room so they do not appear in the news, Speight said.

Also as part of the tests, the Red Cross simulated a delivery of life sustaining medications like insulin for diabetes, or heart medication. Non-life sustaining medication would not be a priority for the simulation or in a natural disaster.

During a natural disaster, the Shawnee Red Cross would also notify the Oklahoma City headquarters that they have set up a shelter in case they need additional assistance.

Sonic “donated” food for the fictional disaster victims as part of the simulation, but if the disaster were real and the Red Cross needed food for several days, the organization would call on local churches to help provide meals.

“We provide the food and they do the cooking,” Pam Travis, a 13-year Red Cross volunteer, said.

The churches and organizations that help with the food depends on the location of the Red Cross Center that needs help. The Southern Baptists are always on hand for the Shawnee Red Cross, Travis said.

In a real event, the Red Cross usually provides victims with two meals a day, a sandwich lunch and a hot dinner, followed by quiet time throughout the shelter, Travis said.

The emergency tests also requested a mass feeding for emergency responders. For Tuesday’s simulation, FireLake Grand Casino served as the feeding site and the food. The Red Cross would gather and provide staffing to help serve the emergency responders.

In real-life scenarios the Red Cross sets up tables and a rest area and provides carb-based snacks and Gatorade for emergency responders, Speight said.

The tests help the Red Cross determine how they can improve their response to real-life disaster situations, Speight explained. The organization could not operate without volunteers, like the husband and wife team of Travis and her husband Bruce, nor could they operate without donations, Speight said.

He encourages anyone to come by the office at 232 N. Broadway Ave to help with the organization. Those who want to volunteer may be surprised at how rigorous the training can be.

“We have them set up a cot, because everyone thinks it’s real easy to set up a cot and it’s not,” Bruce said. “We try to train them in a portion of what we do.”

The Red Cross will have an “out brief” to discuss the results of their simulations in a couple of days. However, Spieght said the Red Cross office has already noticed a few holes in their system they plan to remedy immediately, so the practice run has already been a success.
Shawnee and Pottawatomie County emergency management teams, along with teams from across Oklahoma, conducted emergency response exercises to test emergency operations during major disasters.

Agencies worked through a series of fictional scenarios, including wildfires, tornadoes and flooding, which will test their ability to communicate and coordinate responses.

The emergency tests lasted approximately six hours, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with one morning shift and one afternoon shift.

The exercise was developed by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security to make sure that emergency responders are ready for natural disasters, and to find out where the gaps in preparedness, if any, are located in statewide operations.