Training Exercise Prepares First Responders for Earthquake

First responders and medical crews had a busy morning at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport Wednesday.

Patients were loaded onto stretchers and transported from a Kentucky Air National Guard plane to a Mustang Aviation hangar, where doctors worked to quickly assess their injuries from an earthquake in western Kentucky.

"I got another belly trauma here guys!" yelled a doctor.

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The full-scale emergency was fortunately just a training exercise, but airport spokeswoman Amy Caudill says officials tried to make it as close to reality as possible.

"This exercise has been planned for quite a while and we do our best to keep the logistics of it quiet so the people participating are not aware of exactly what is happening until it begins."

The simulated emergency included patients suffering a variety of injuries. They were actually high school students from Scott County, but first responders from agencies like Lexington Emergency Management and the Division of Fire treated them as if they were real earthquake victims.

The Lexington VA Medical Center, which serves as the federal coordinating center for the area, oversaw the triage.

"Many times when this type of event happens, the movement happens so quickly, that people aren't coming with medical charts, they're coming with very limited information," said Debra Dillon, National Disaster Medical System Coordinator for the Lexington VA.

Similar earthquake preparedness exercises are being held throughout the New Madrid Seismic Zone this week. A team of evaluators will assess how well personnel responded.