On June 28, 2014, Adams County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) and Brighton Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) participated in a tabletop exercise called Formidable Footprint, a nationwide exercise (found on the Disaster Resistant Communities Group website: http://www.drc-group.com/project/footprint.html ). Various disasters are setup by this group so that disaster response groups from around the country can exercise and respond to simulated disasters that might occur in their areas and exercise their operational plans and procedures.
Adams County ARES and Brighton CERT responded to a tornado that hit the town of Broken Willow (which replicated the town of Brighton, Colorado). The day started out with a simulated severe thunderstorm watch issued the National Weather Service (NWS) office, which soon was escalated to a tornado watch which involved Adams County ARES in their roles as weather spotters for the NWS. This soon evolved into a tornado warning, with several funnel clouds observed in and near the town of Broken Willow.
Within a short amount of time a tornado swept through the town, cutting electrical service to about 200 residents, and damaging numerous homes and businesses. Brighton CERT and Adams County ARES moved into town to start on initial search and rescue while Broken Willow’s emergency services organized, set up an incident command post, and took over the search and rescue efforts, while the CERT team continued to perform primary searches in other, less damaged parts of the town, and ARES took on a communications role within the incident command post as well as in a shelter established for those whose homes were deemed unlivable.
As the group was handling this incident, another incident occurred on the main highway that runs through town in which a semi-trailer truck transporting chlorine overturned and damaged the transport container releasing chlorine gas in the vicinity of the town of Broken Willow. The drift of the chlorine was into town and forced the relocation of the incident command post, as well as residents.
The simulated tornado and chlorine leak incidents were ended for the ARES and CERT teams as Broken Willow emergency management was able to regain communications and determine that everyone in town was accounted for.
This was a simulated situation, however, here in Brighton, CO it could happen and this is what Adams County ARES and Brighton CERT is training for, so when the real thing happens, they will be prepared. Lessons learned from this, as well as future exercises can go a long way to insure that we are ready for whatever comes our way.