Planning for the worst
Dozens of fake injuries, a couple hostages and large amounts of hypothetical explosives were part of an emergency drill set up at Boreal Mountain Resort on Thursday morning.
Coordinated by the Placer County Office of Emergency Services and funded by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, the drill gave approximately 44 regional agencies the chance to practice a unified response to a disaster.
“The region is always at risk of multi-casualty events like this,” said Bryce Keller, Truckee Fire Protection District chief, who was part of the fake bus crash response. “This is an opportunity to practice in a planned, controlled setting.”
The scenario emergency responders were working with on Thursday was complicated. A truck loaded with explosives was hijacked by two suspects. The truck, driving erratically, pushed a bus off of Interstate 80. The bus careened off the interstate rolled over into the Boreal parking lot, injuring dozens of its passengers.
Meanwhile the suspects took two hostages, possibly some explosives, and were holed up in the Boreal Inn.
“This kind of training is useful even if we don’t think this scenario will happen,” said Anita Yoder, spokeswoman for Placer County. “We ask ourselves ‘What do we need to focus on, and what do we need to practice?'”
A lot of that practice involves establishing clear communication between the agencies, allowing the response effort to be coordinated and effective.
Drills of this magnitude are staged every two years, said Yoder. But this year’s is the first in the eastern part of Placer County, she said.
Truckee’s Tahoe Forest Hospital was a big part of the operation. Apart from internal drills the hospital conducts twice a year, this expanded drill offers more opportunities to prepare for an emergency.
“Every year you learn something, and that’s why you do it,” said Bev Brink, Tahoe Forest Hospital’s emergency department director. “Even though it’s a lot of work, it is worth it.”
Keller was happy to have the drill take place near Truckee, which is always threatened with some type of disaster.
“Truckee is probably at greater risk of a multi-casualty event because we have an interstate running through town and a railroad that transports hazardous materials,” he said.
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A car driving westbound on Interstate 80 near Nyack Road veered off the highway and hit a tree around 7:55 a.m. Thursday, the California Highway Patrol said.