(Oct. 4, 2013) Besides the will to practice and rehearse, true preparedness often takes a great deal of imagination.
Case in point: On Saturday morning, emergency personnel from Ocean City and surrounding jurisdictions responded to what was, for all intents and purposes, the leakage of 3,000 gallons of marine fuel into the bay following a catastrophic explosion at the downtown Coast Guard station.
What passing boaters may have actually seen, however, were first responders carefully securing a mud-colored slick of wood chips and flour.
The activity was part of Saturday’s intensive emergency simulation, coordinated by the Town of Ocean City’s Department of Emergency Services along with allied agencies from across the Eastern Shore.
“This was to test the coordination between all the different entities and see how we handle a crisis scenario,” said city Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald, who described the exercise as “very successful” following its completion.
The simulation modeled a scenario in which an explosive device, detonated at the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters at Wicomico Street, caused a massive spill of the Coast Guard’s fuel reserves.
First responders would have to secure the scene, extinguish any fires, evacuate injured persons from the station, and then contain the leak.
“With this scenario, we wanted to be able to test our assets across the board,” Theobald said.
Agencies involved included the Ocean City Fire Department, Ocean City Police Department, Ocean City and Worcester County Emergency Management, Salisbury Fire Department, Maryland State Police Dive Team, United States Coast Guard, Delaware Hazmat Response and the Ocean City Crisis Communication Team.
All of these assets, Theobald said, would likely come into play during such a severe incident. The only agencies missing were at the federal level.
“Keep in mind that the timeline may be off,” Theobald said. “If there was an actual bombing, the FBI would likely freeze the scene and we would be here for many more hours before we finished our own response.”
Saturday was the first full-scale simulation and exercise conducted in the resort in several years.
“We’re required to do a full-scale scenario every five years, but we do smaller-scale drills on a regular basis,” Theobald said.