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Orange County Digest

Brea : Quake Drill Goes Off With Nary a Tremor

May 28, 1986|Steve Emmons \f7

What would happen if an earthquake struck Brea and a large building collapsed, trapping 200 people inside?

According to the scenario played out Tuesday to plan for such a disaster, the countywide Incident Command System would be brought to life, and 28 fire engines and trucks, plus scores of ambulances, would be called to the scene from throughout the county.

Rescuers, arriving in groups of "strike teams," would comb the rubble for victims and sort them out according to who needed immediate, lifesaving treatment, who could wait and those who were beyond help.

Ambulances would carry the injured to nearby hospitals, all linked by an emergency radio network that would route drivers to the least crowded emergency rooms. A network of amateur radio operators would be standing by in case the hospitals' communications failed.

Police would keep the roads open and the onlookers at a safe distance.

Thirty would die, but 115 would make it to hospitals within two hours, according to the scenario.

"It took six months of planning to take care of those two hours," said Marcia Thompson, chief of the operational support section of the county's Communications Division.

"It went better than I expected," said Dave Huffman, administrative chief for the Brea Fire Department.

"Every time you have a drill, numbers of problems crop up. But we met our commitment. We had a commitment to transport at least 100 (mock victims), and we transported 115. There were little problems here and there--in communications, things like that--but we can overcome those problems."

The county's emergency services have yet to face a disaster of such proportion, but emergency teams have been practicing for years. The simulated disasters have taken varying themes--a huge toxic chemical spill, a large fire, a bus-train collision.

This year, an imaginary building at Carbon Canyon Regional Park in Brea "collapsed" on schedule at 9:30 a.m., and the volunteer "victims," wearing simulated blood, bruises and tags stating their vital signs, lay down in their assigned positions.

The phone rang at the Brea Fire Department's communications center reporting the "disaster," and the drill was under way.

Victims were encouraged to act their parts, and the rescuers took it seriously, Huffman said. "We really don't have much trouble getting the firemen to role-play," he said. "They understand the importance of it."

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