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Disaster drill covers everything from a house fire to a capsized boat

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

By all accounts, the countywide disaster drill that was staged Wednesday, Sept. 10 at Detroit Lakes' Soo Pass Ranch was an unqualified success.

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From a capsized boat on Lake Sallie to a hazardous materials spill to an accident requiring extraction via the "jaws of life" to a helicopter evacuation of a victim impaled on a tree branch, all eight emergency scenarios that were staged Wednesday went off without a hitch.

"The teamwork was phenomenal," said Rusty Haskins, emergency management services director for Becker County. "The new agencies that were asked to participate this year (including the Becker County Horse Posse and Community Health) performed very well, and all the volunteers were extremely appreciated.

"The realism of the moulage (makeup used to emulate injuries) and the acting of the volunteers contributed greatly to the overall experience," he added.

Wednesday's event was the largest disaster drill ever attempted in Becker County, with more than 30 agencies and 300-plus emergency workers, volunteer 'victims' and law enforcement personnel involved. Agencies from two other counties -- Clay and Otter Tail -- were involved as well, Haskins said.

Festivals And Concert Events, Inc., gave the county full access to its facilities at the Soo Pass Ranch, which is the site of the annual 10,000 Lakes Festival and WE Fest. In addition, Haskins said, "they were instrumental in the set up and (provided) many of the props used in the drill.

"The opportunity to have a two-square-mile area to work with was pretty special."

Besides the Soo Pass property, St. Mary's Innovis hospital was also the setting for portions of the disaster drill.

The scene was a somewhat hectic one during the first hour of the drill, which began at 6 p.m. on Wednesday evening. But by the time the second hour began, the atmosphere had begun to resemble a true disaster situation, with emergency personnel working smoothly together to handle the crisis.

"Now we're in the groove," noted Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon. "This is what a real life emergency would look like."

When the eighth and final emergency scenario had been handled, it was just a few minutes until 8 p.m. -- the drill's scheduled end time.

"Overall, it was a super learning experience," Haskins said, noting that several junior members of the participating emergency service agencies had an invaluable opportunity to take on a leadership role, while the senior workers supervised and guided them.

"It was definitely my observation -- along with the others at the incident command center -- that all county residents can be assured that they will be handled professionally and receive good care in the event of an emergency," Haskins said.

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