Emergency responders gather for exercise in Dunn County


More than 20 county and state agencies participated in a mass fatality incident exercise  involving a groups of teens who got into a car accident while driving in the fog at the Little Missouri State Park.

The exercise was called Disaster in the Badlands.

“They went out an started searching an area. . .  found a vehicle that was crashed. . .  and  found the victims, and then they will go into the recovery. They will also go into notifying parents,” said Mike Smith, Williston/Willams County Emergency Management Director.

Smith also said the exercise is important “because it is better to learn in a situation like this as a scenario than to meet the people you have to work with in a disaster for the first time at a disaster”.

One part of the exercise is to see that emergency responders have the proper  equipment and communication abilities.

“We get to wok on real time scenarios and radio communications, ” said Katie Elwood, paramedic for Killdeer Ambulance.

Another part is the proper chain of command and responsibilities, during a mass fatality the local county sheriff and coroner are the incident commanders.

For the the Disaster in the Badlands scenario, Dunn County coroner Kirk Roll and Chief Deputy Matt Hegstad were the incident commanders.

“It lets people know that even though they are in a certain position at their day job they might not be in charge of that event when they come here,” said Smith

During the exercise, actors were also brought in to play distraught parents.

“They need real life actors because they need the exercise of what it would be like to deal with a distraught parent,” said Jennifer Schaeffer, Southwestern District Health Unit.

Kara Cannady, an EMT for Killdeer Ambulance, said they worked on “coaching them(parents) with their breathing, and talking to them in a nice calm voice . .  which will calm them down”.

Smith said that after the event is finished they will look at the things that were done right and done wrong.

“. . . and then there will be a correction action plan. They will look at the things that need improvement, and they will work on the improvement”.

More than 100 people participated in the event – and Smith said he takes part in about 7-10 emergency exercises each year.

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