Tuesday morning, June 10, Atascosa County EMS personnel, Jourdanton and Pleasanton Fire Departments, Atascosa and Bexar County Fire Marshals arranged a simulated wreck scene. Location for the staged wreck was about a mile west of SH 16 on FM 162.
Atascosa County Fire Marshal Todd Perna helped oversee the exercise and commented, “The drill that we scheduled for today actually was a simulation of State Highway 97 at Argent Court. Because of the increased traffic we see in the Argent Court area, it wasn’t feasible for us to close that road down and do the drill at that location.
“So we picked Spur 162. We closed it off at highway 16 and at 97. In the center of that area we set up a mock scenario of an Argent Court van that was transporting people that live in that assisted living facility. The van would have been turning off 97 into the parking lot when being struck from the rear by an eighteen wheeler. Which, in turn, that vehicle became involved in fire and we had injured people.”
Perna continued, “We had multiple fire departments respond to that scene. We had the small Argent Court van that had four passengers as well as its driver along with a driver in the truck that hit the van who had some injuries and some burns.
“We had Jourdanton Fire Department as well as Pleasanton Fire Department who were the first arriving fire companies to respond. While they were handling the fire, the containment of hazardous material leaking from each one of the vehicles, EMS was also notified.
“EMS responded with three ambulances from Atascosa County that were able to take the most critically injured patients first. They transported them to the hospital and then the less critical patients went out in the next arriving ambulance until we got everybody transported away from the scene.
“Then we had other issues that we have to contend with such as cleaning up the hazardous materials that were leaked out on the ground from those vehicles.
“We have to coordinate with wrecker companies to come tow those vehicles. We also have the roadway shut down. We have law enforcement there shutting down the roads.
“And in the event that this really, truly did happen at that specific location at Argent Court, we would close down 97 probably at Airport Road. We would have closed down traffic in Jourdanton to divert vehicles from that area away from the accident scene. We would not have let any traffic through that stretch of 97, which would have been close to the hospital. That location would have been much closer as far as transporting our patients there.
“All in all, we realized we had some small issues in communications that we worked our way through on scene. We found little glitches and know what we need to do to fix those and worked our way through them. But, it definitely brought some things to our attention we can build on and improve. And we’ll be doing that in the near future.”
“The drill actually went along very smoothly,” said Perna, “We had agencies there from South Texas Regional Advisory Committee (STRAC) out of San Antonio. They facilitate a lot of the hospital interaction with the emergency services. They’re really instrumental with the equipment that they have that they provide to us. There’s a communications trailer that is a regional asset. All we have to do is pick up the phone and they bring that communications trailer to us. They brought it out and had it set up in less than ten minutes after arrival. There’s a command area in the van where operational decisions can be made. Also a bank of radios, we have a video camera where we can zoom in on the overall scene – all of the responding agencies that are coming in and going out. We know exactly where they are. We had ham radio operators on hand – we had one at the hospital, we had one at the scene and one at the Cowboy Fellowship Church.
“We were able to communicate when we had a school bus at the location come in and picked up the injured that we were going to evacuate from the scene, taking them to the Cowboy Fellowship area which was considered a ‘safe haven’. They weren’t really in harms way but due to the smoke from the fire, we made the decision to have those people evacuated.”
This could have been a situation where a request would have been made to have school busses arrive and take people to a safer area.
Also participating in the exercise were Bexar County, Ham Radio Operaters of Atascosa County and the Jourdanton Police Department.
Perna said, “We appreciated the help from Argent Court and Loren Gillespie of Gillespie Custom Cabinets for their vehicles. It all went off without a hitch.”