LANCASTER – Injured passengers, burning buildings, and toppled buses were just some of the scenarios that challenged a response team Thursday when Antelope Valley Transit Authority’s administrative and operations staff participated in an emergency preparedness drill.
It was part of the “Great ShakeOut”, which occurred in numerous states across the country.
The earthquake Drop, Cover, and Hold On drill lasted for approximately three minutes, and many organizations followed up with an evacuation exercise. But AVTA took it several steps further by cutting power to the facility and conducting a search and rescue of wounded victims, all while contending with fire scenarios in various buildings throughout the bus yard.
“This type of emergency preparedness drill is an excellent teaching tool,” stated Executive Director Len Engel. “We are committed to helping our community in the event of a disaster and that means we must continually train in order to properly prepare.”
AVTA’s emergency scenario replicated the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and is the largest recorded earthquake in California’s history. The exercise lasted for approximately three hours and was broken into two phases to test the staff’s skill with an initial response, which then graduated into a regional response with the opening of an Emergency Operations Center.
The drill was facilitated by Carolyn Harshman of Emergency Planning Consultants, who closed the event with an evaluation of the staff’s performance in an effort to identify areas for growth.
“These emergency exercises always reveal a team’s strengths and weaknesses, and our hope is to be able to identify these challenges and strengths so that responders will be more prepared in the event of a real emergency,” stated Harshman. “The AVTA team has been working for several weeks to prepare for this drill and clearly the organization is more prepared today than they were when we first began this training endeavor.”
The exercise also included a scenario in which one passenger was on board an AVTA bus that was traveling when the mock earthquake began. The bus operator followed emergency protocol by pulling to the side of the road and then conducted a check of passengers to determine if any were injured.
The passenger was instructed to wear a sign listing the injuries she had sustained to test the team’s response back at the incident command center.
The transit agency is required by law to undergo extensive emergency response training in order to manage local and regional emergencies which may require a coordination of resources, such as the deployment of transit buses when help is needed for evacuations.
[Information via news release from the Antelope Valley Transit Authority.]