Mock disaster prepares local first responders for real emergencies

CAMP BLANDING, Fla. - We traveled all the way to Camp Blanding in Clay County to watch National Guard, active military, and civilians -- by the thousands -- train for the worst.

"This could be caused from storms," said Lt. Col. Michael Ladd of the Florida National Guard." This could be caused from human  or natural disasters -- the barn door is wide open as far as why this is caused."

But in this episode, on this day, the situations mocked what would be a MacDill-bound aircraft crashing near the Port of Tampa.

"Where it is doesn't really matter," Ladd continued.  "As much as we get to the tactical task at hand and so this is a hazmat and technical extraction and we're getting at it."

Yes they were.  Soldiers, civilians, and the guys who coordinate their efforts.

"We all work together, and when the state EOC is up and running, we all have desks next to each other," said Scott Chappell with the Florida Association for Search and Rescue.  "But the responders need to train and work with each other so our commanders know each other."

And its drills like this, done now, away from the actual disaster, that makes the teams better prepared for when the disaster strikes.

"I think that's the unfortunate reminder here is just the recent events we had yesterday in Oklahoma," said
John Ward with Clay County Emergency Management.  "This is very important and it is unfortunate.  A sad reminder."

There is also the mock hurricane approaching the disaster scene that's already "hazmatted" -- layering more and more on so nothing can catch these folks unprepared.

"Because eventualities -- I think we've seen in the news," deadpanned Lt. Col. Ladd.  "You never know what's going to happen next."

But we do know something is going to happen.

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