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Format: 04/17/2014
Format: 04/17/2014


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Western Pennsylvania disaster drill prepares for earthquake

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

By Chris Ramirez
The woman who came in to see Heather Nulph shook uncontrollably as she sat on a cot, describing how the walls of her home caved in around her Mercer County home during an earthquake.

Nulph, a paramedic from Clarion, eased in to help, but the woman pushed her away.

"I'm gonna need some help over here," Nulph yelled across the emergency room, which in less than 10 seconds became flooded with more patients. "She's hysterical."

Instantly, three emergency medics descended on the woman, helping Nulph keep her calm.

There was, of course, no earthquake reported in the area on Friday. This was a drill put on by the Emergency Medical Services Institute, a nonprofit in Robinson.

A blue inflatable hospital, complete with 50 beds and enough syringes, gauze and other first-response medical equipment to handle even more patients, stood in a corner of Blueberry Hill Park in Franklin Park.

In all, nearly 200 people, including EMTs, doctors and nurses, took part in the exercise, which continues today. The region has not had a major earthquake in years. But that's just the point, organizers said.

"We've done terrorism drills, snow emergencies, response to H1N1 breakouts, the G-20. We don't get hurricanes here, but we were ready for that," said Thomas J. McElree, executive director for the institute. "This is one thing we've never done before."

Tom Stein, a doctor at Allegheny General Hospital who's heading the weekend's drills, said they are crucial to helping reduce mistakes and snap judgments made during a real emergency that can cost someone his or her life. Exercises of this nature are staged at least once a year, honing emergency crews' skill in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

The drill comes at a time when the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency plans to kick off a statewide effort to get comments from the public on updating its All-Hazards Mitigation Plan.

PEMA will host a series of public meetings to allow residents to give input on the plan. The first is Monday in Brookville, Jefferson County. Another is slated for Tuesday at the Community College of Beaver County in Monaca, Building 9 Room 103, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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