A tornado swept through Washington Township Sunday afternoon, causing structural failure to the roof of Benedict A. Cucinella School and drastic injuries to students and parents attending an event inside.
Fortunately, that was just a plot line for a drill involving local first responders and community volunteers.
The second graduated class of Washington Township’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), members of the all three of the town’s fire companies and the Long Valley First Aid Squad took part in the drill, which initiated just before 1 p.m.
A call went out to the local emergency groups notifying them of the “tornado.” As responders arrived on scene, the odor of natural gas was present, bringing the high-danger situation to another level of complication.
After HAZMAT crews took care of the source of the gas odor, CERT and first aid squad members entered the school’s auditorium to find close to 30 “victims” with a slew of injuries, ranging from walking wounded to those with grave medical problems. Triage was conducted on the victims most in need by the emergency responders.
“This was a fairly realistic emergency scenario,” said Bob Drake, Washington Township Fire Chief and incident commander. “We included a number of ‘complications’ in the drill since unexpected developments are a fact of life in real disaster situations.”
“Victims” in the drill included local Boy Scouts who were able to gain community service hours and merit badge credit for their volunteerism. The drill also gave CERT members the required graduation exercise needed by their New Jersey State Police sponsors.
“Everyone had their role and worked well together,” said First Aid Squad Chief Chris Maxwell.
Information, quotes and photos provided by Bruce Clark, Deputy Coordinator of the Washington Township Office of Emergency Management.