It could happen here

Wanda English Burnett


Multiple victims suffered injuries after
a gas explosion rocked the Jac-Cen-Del High School
around noon on Saturday, April 10.

That could have been the headline if the disaster at the school on Saturday had not been staged.
A number of fire, police and rescue units raced to the scene that had been carefully choreographed by Shawn Negangard, who oversees training for the Osgood Volunteer Fire Department.

One of the “victims” inside the building was Kelly Vollet, Ripley County Technology Director, who saw a different side of what it means to be a volunteer. “This is so important,” she told the Osgood Journal after the incident on Saturday.

Since reporters weren’t allowed inside the school (nor should they be), Vollet provided a rare view from inside the disaster scene. She arrived about 8 a.m. that morning to be “made-up” and briefed about the events for the day.

Just as a real life situation could be - the victims were attending a ballgame at the school when the “explosion” occurred.

Vollet said inside the building people were blown up and were battling the heavy smoke, which was so thick she couldn’t see a foot in front of her. “It was all very real,” she noted, saying at one point she was even crying.

Firefighters rolled in from Osgood, Delaware, and Napoleon departments to crawl through the building to look for “victims”.

The scene was as close to the real thing as possible with firemen not knowing how many victims or where they were located in the gymnasium. Some were up in the bleachers, others scattered across the floor.

Reserve Deputy Marshal Eric Roush with the Osgood Police Department, along with Ripley County Sheriff Tom Grills, secured the premises as the rescue workers diligently “saved” lives.

The scene was complete with a PHI helicopter flying in to transport patients by air. The rescue workers used the training to hone their skills and critique their moves to make sure they are ready in case it really happens.

The volunteers were not paid and were simply glad to take time out of their sunny weekend day to help others. “I would do it again,” Vollet noted.

Negangard praised everyone involved from the 911 dispatchers to the victims, saying everyone did an outstanding job. “We’re already looking at ways to improve,” he noted. He said all the agencies, which included not only the fire departments, but Rescue 30, Rescue 20 and Rescue 69, along with Paramedic units, will get together in the future to critique the training exercise.

“There was great cooperation among the agencies,” Negangard noted. He said the last victim, there were 32 altogether, was brought out of the building at 2:15 p.m., almost two hours ahead of his scheduled time. They were dispatched to the scene close to 12:30 p.m. “They did an excellent job,” he said of the firemen involved. “They had a lot to deal with.”

At one point some of the actors were “concerned grandparents” who desperately tried to get in the building. Garland and Carol Fields of Sunman, were praised for their efforts of making the scene realistic right down to being told by police they would be tased if they continued with their actions. “They (the Fields) did an outstanding job,” Negangard noted.

Birgit Hawkins of Milan, was the make-up artist for the day. “She made most of the make-up herself,” Negangard said. Negangard has served in rescue work for the county for a number of years and said her make-up is absolutely realistic. “It looks like the real thing,” he noted.

Hawkins, who is an EMT for Rescue 30 at Milan, is from Germany where she worked professionally with the theatre in make-up. “She was a definite asset to the training,” Negangard concluded.

(Editor's note: See photo coverage on Page 13 inside today's paper.)

Pictured above a number of firefighters, rescue personnel and volunteer "victims" participate in a mock disaster held at the Jac-Cen-Del High School on Saturday, April 10. The training was complete with a PHI helicopter, pictured at left, coming in to transport the wounded.