Winneshiek Co. holds emergency drill to test response - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Winneshiek Co. holds emergency drill to test response

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Are emergency responders in rural areas ready if a big disaster takes place?

That was the question Thursday in Winneshiek County, where an emergency drill tested fire crews, first responders, and health officials.

The premise?

A leaking anhydrous ammonia tank outside the Ossian fire station, then not too far away, another leaking anhydrous tank, putting the city in peril.

The drill is intended to test Winneshiek County's emergency response.

"A big part of it is volunteer management. All of our fire departments are volunteers so it takes a huge community to make things go well and we work to try and make sure that we're protecting all of our community," said Nancy Sacquitne, Winneshiek Emergency Preparedness chairperson.

Chad Schissel is the Calmar fire chief.

The department has 26 volunteers.

About 10 responded on a moment's notice.

No-one knew the drill was happening.

"We talk about the good things, the bad things, the ugly things, everything that went on. Make sure everybody's all right about what went on and improve on the next call," said Schissel.

If there was a real emergency involving leaking anhydrous ammonia tanks, residents would have been asked to shelter-in-place until the emergency was over."

The threat was over in a little more than an hour.

Now, they'll all go back and examine how they did.

"It's a matter of making sure we know how to respond in an emergency situation and making sure we learn from the situations we've had a chance to test today," said Sacquitne.

Along with what went on outside the Ossian Fire Department and Farmers Union Co-op, a related scenario took place at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah.

That's where supposed victims showed up after driving through what would have been the anhydrous cloud in Ossian.

Emergency officials say they conduct these tests about once every 5 years.

They say they also tested the new ring-down system they use for reverse 911 during Thursday's drill.

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