Disaster drills begin across Chicago area

June 13, 2010 4:12:19 PM PDT
If you see a lot more emergency vehicles around the Chicago area this week, it could be part of a massive disaster drill.The first of five days of emergency training events began Sunday in southwest suburban Oak Lawn.

In a drill, Oak Lawn firefighters battled a commercial airline crash right in the suburb's downtown area with massive casualties and injuries.

"I have a lower back injury with a right contusion," Shawn Green, a volunteer.

"Second-degree burns to face and neck," another volunteer said.

The south suburban disaster was just a training exercise, the first in five days of drills that test the emergency response from more than 50 local, state, federal and private agencies.

The Illinois National Guard is coordinating the exercise.

"Things never happen as planned. Obviously, there would be some challenges if we were to have an incident, but this exercise would help us work through these challenges and work better as a team," said Gen. Robert Pratt of the Illinois National Guard.

The simulated plane crash was a full-scale exercise. To prevent local residents from getting alarmed thinking the exercise was real, Oak Lawn officials sent out letters to every resident notifying them about the drill.

"We are trying to make this as realistic as possible. We have volunteers as victims who will be injured. We have a large number of mannequins who are dressed, thanks to the Salvation Army, and staged in area where medical examiners [are] processing them like a real event," said Lt. Arthur Clark of the Oak Lawn Police Dept.

The drill has been in the planning stages for months. Despite that, Oak Lawn officials say they expect things to go wrong during the drill. Coordinators say whole point is to learn from their mistakes so they will be better prepared in the case of a real plane crash.

"It seems to be going good. They are making everybody move pretty quickly," Green said.

The training exercise will go on in various locations in the Chicago area all week. There will be a simulations of a meth lab takedown, terrorist attacks, a chemical explosion and CTA evacuations.


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