Tenn. crews practice 'dirty bomb' disaster
Volunteers helped first responders practice their response to a mock radiological disaster
By Kevin McKenzie
The Commercial Appeal
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Damon Smith, a 37-year-old Memphis firefighter and emergency medical technician, stood near the old Mid-South Coliseum on Wednesday with fake burns on his arm, neck and face.
Smith was among some 100 to 150 volunteers who helped similar numbers of first responders practice their response to a mock radiological disaster, as if terrorists had used a "dirty" bomb with radioactive results.
Although Smith said it was his first time participating in such an exercise , he's sure of the benefits the training will bring.
"It reduces the chaos if and when something like this happens," Smith said before boarding one of four Memphis Area Transit Authority buses ferrying mock victims to the coliseum. "Practice makes perfect."
Bob Nations, director of the Shelby County Office of Preparedness, said the multi-agency exercise emphasized the role that area hospitals, including the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, would play in such a disaster.
Hospitals would be challenged by large numbers of victims in an environment contaminated by radiation.
"One of our gaps, and this is true all over the country, is the ability to triage, transport and treat burn victims, particularly if you're in a radiological environment," Nations said.
He and Smith also noted that the exercise, like one held at Shelby Farms last September, also tests command systems during a disaster, both natural and man-made.