Mock ‘Tornado’ Strikes Michigan Campground
A simulated tornado whipped through the Otter Lake Campground near Lapeer, Mich., Sunday morning (March 29), wreaking terror upon the community.
The quiet of the rainy and foggy morning was shattered by loud commands of responders and the flashing of lights and howling sirens of emergency vehicles. About 130 volunteers participated in the three-hour mock disaster designed to put rescuer’s skills into action, according to The County Press, Lapeer.
“It’s a full-scale exercise that allows first responders to react in a very real event without having safety as a concern,” said Lapeer County Emergency Management coordinator Mary Stikeleather. “Everyone filled out an evaluation form after. From what I’ve read, people were impressed with the speed and the seriousness.”
The fake tornado struck the full campground with limited warning about 9 a.m.
“The fire departments went above and beyond setting up props,” Stikeleather said. “They had a car tipped over and flipped around. There were big piles of brush. There was a utility trailer under a pretend live downed wire. There was a simulated (hazardous material) spill.”
Victims were everywhere, and many of them later commented how seriously the first responders acted to their trauma.
“This is the first time we’ve had a major triage,” said Marathon Township First Responder Kim Goldorf. “We had about 32 victims; 26 were at the campground. They were in the trees, down by the water and under the dock. Some were at the school.”
There was a hunt and search for people lost in the woods. Rescuers called for victims within the sound of their voice to respond.
“The came out of the woods, and all I could think of was ‘Thriller,” said Goldorf jokingly referring to the 1980s Michael Jackson video where Jackson and his date are attacked by a hoard of blood-thirsty zombies.
Otter Lake Fire Chief Joe Norton and Columbiaville Fire Department Lt. Lyle Goldorf were incident commanders.
“It was a good training experience,” Goldorf said. “Everything went well, with the police, fire and EMS all focusing on one event.”
The public was pre-warned not to be alarmed by the simulated disaster by posters in the community, letters sent by mail and an article in The County Press.
“We still had people who were driving by, or hadn’t heard it was planned,” Lyle said. “I guess that means it was realistic.”