About 85 first responders from the Northeast Tennessee region descended on the Appalachian Fairgrounds on Wednesday — not for a disaster response, but to train for one.
It was the District 1 Tennessee Task Force, comprised of the Upper East Tennessee counties, setting up camp to see just how much room the group will need for a deployment area if called into action.
“We’re doing a mobilization drill to see how big of an area we’d have to set up if we had to move out or go into a location to establish a command center,” said Kingsport Fire Assistant Chief Jim Everhart, who served as the team leader for Wednesday’s exercise. “Our goal is to mobilize and get on the road quickly to the disaster.”
The task force had that opportunity earlier this year when several tornadoes swept through the area. Everhart said the team mobilized to Greene County to assist with the tornado recovery.
The training keeps members familiarized with response protocol as well as tools used in responses.
“We’re setting up three training sessions — a shelter session, search cameras to locate people in a downed structure and the equipment cache,” said KFD Capt. Sean Broyles, who assisted in coordinating the training. Some of the members have actually not seen all the equipment we have purchased with grant money. We’re going through each piece of equipment, familiarizing ourselves, to making sure everything runs.
“Our goal is, when we hit the ground, we want to be self-sufficient for 72 hours,” he said.
There was also a medical station set up with staffing that includes a physician, nurses and medical technicians.
“The medical team serves the component that cares for the rescue members, taking care of those people who are rescuers,” said Carol Jones, a Johnson City Medical Center clinical educator.
The medical team would also assist victims injured in a disaster as needed, she said.
Rescuers from a number of agencies, including fire departments from Kingsport, Johnson City and Bristol, EMS units from Johnson City/Washington County and Sullivan County, the Carter County Rescue Squad and the Kingsport Lifesaving Crew participated in the training.
Everhart said another aspect of Wednesday’s training was part of the process to become an accredited task force through the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.