Emergency response exercise planned
By Ruth Higgins
Tuesday’s scheduled onslaught of military and emergency vehicles along major roadways may look like an invading force but county officials say residents should not be alarmed.
Twenty-seven military and hazmat vehicles, 127 military personnel, 35 ambulances, multiple fire district and law enforcement personnel and vehicles rushing along Birch Bay-Lynden, Blaine, and Alderson roads are part of the National Level Exercise being conducted on May 6.
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., residents should avoid those roads, as well as the staging area at the Custer rest stop and the exercise sites of Camp Horizon and the Northwest Washington Fair Grounds.
In addition, aircraft will be ferrying “victims” of mock injuries between sites and the Bellingham airport for simulated transport to distant hospitals. Transport would be required in an actual event because of overload at St. Joseph Hospital, which will also participate in the exercise.
This full-scale exercise, under fire district 4’s chief Tom Fields’ direction as incident commander, is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s exercise program running from May 1 through May 8 on the East and West coasts. Whatcom County volunteered to participate so multiple agencies could practice their coordinated responses to disasters. A disaster is any situation that overwhelms existing emergency service personnel’s capability to respond.
This event replicates a terrorist chemical release at Camp Horizon and the subsequent injuries and property damage that would result.
For more information, contact Whatcom County executive Pete Kremen’s spokesperson Joe Bates at 676-6707, ext. 52510.