Hundreds of first responders and volunteer victims participated in a large-scale emergency exercise last week on the St. Croix River in Stillwater.
Among those the training drill was Woodbury Councilwoman Julie Ohs.
“It made me feel good as a citizen to know that they’re prepared,” she said. “Because it could happen.”
As many as 300 people—including at least 90 volunteer victims—played out a training situation in which a wedding party aboard a paddleboat was involved in a major accident. Police, firefighters, ambulances and dive teams responded. Woodbury EMS officials were part of the exercise, Ohs said.
“They treated it like the real deal,” said Ohs, who also observed a similar exercise in Virginia two years ago.
Volunteers acted as wedding guests on board a riverboat provided by St. Croix Boat and Packet Co. Some acted as injured patients to be rescued, transported and cared for at hospitals on both sides of the river. Others acted as non-injured patients and will be brought to a family assistance center, where they were cared for and ultimately reunited with loved ones.
Ohs primarily got a look at the scene at the river and the care center.
“I was impressed by how professional they all were and how real they all took it,” she said.
The exercise— done in conjunction with National Preparedness month—was funded Homeland Security grants. The training was a way for emergency responders to network and prepare for an actual emergency with numerous responding agencies, businesses and hospitals.
Following the training exercise, responders, emergency management teams and other disaster-assistance agencies will analyze what went right, what went wrong and what could be improved.
Ohs said she would informally tell fellow Woodbury City Council members how the event went but would not likely give a formal presentation.
She said another training exercise is planned for February.