In the public safety community, the word “exercise” doesn’t refer to a trip to the gym. Rather, when we exercise, we test our ability to perform a specific task or to respond to a particular type of hazard. This often involves a simulated disaster so we can practice under realistic conditions. We then evaluate the results so we can identify and correct problems before they come up in response to a real emergency. And, yes, sometimes that can give us a workout anyway, though that’s not the main intention…
On Wednesday, September 21st, Fayette County will participate in the region’s annual Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) exercise. The public safety agencies of ten counties, as well as state and federal resources, will respond to a simulated accident at Blue Grass Army Depot’s chemical weapons storage facilities.
In the event of an actual incident involving the depot’s stockpile, Fayette County’s main role is to serve as a host county for Madison County residents who may need to evacuate from Richmond and the surrounding area. Wednesday’s drill serves to test the plans and preparations that we and our public safety partners have put in place for such an eventuality. Several locations around Fayette County will be involved in the exercise.
Here at Stately DEM Manor, we’ll activate the county’s emergency operations center. The varied agency representatives who serve in this facility coordinate and support Lexington’s responses to major disasters, whether real (like the 2003 and 2009 ice storms) or simulated for training and testing purposes (like Wednesday’s chemical release scenario).
At Jacobson Park, responders from the Lexington Fire and Police Departments, Animal Care & Control, Social Services, the Salvation Army, and other agencies will deploy to establish an evacuee reception center. In an actual emergency, the reception center would serve as evacuees’ first resource for receiving medical assistance, community information, disaster assistance, referrals to American Red Cross shelters, and other immediate needs. (For safety reasons, the park will be closed to guests during this time, so we can’t invite you to observe.)
At other sites around the community, several health care providers will activate their own emergency plans and decontamination protocols for treating an influx of patients who may have been exposed to hazardous chemicals. The American Red Cross and the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department will jointly establish a disaster shelter for displaced persons while the Lexington Humane Society will do the same for companion animals.
During or after the exercise, you may see response activities or news reports about them. Don’t worry. There’s no danger to the public during this exercise. Remember – it’s only a test!