Disaster drill staged at old Charleroi football stadium

| Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Its been two years since the stands at the downtown Charleroi Area High School stadium were full for a Friday night football game.

But, the stadium still has some purpose, as emergency responders from the western half of the state held a mock emergency drill there on Saturday.

Charleroi fire Chief Robert Whiten Jr. noted that the state's Urban Search and Rescue Team holds the annual drill in early November.

The former high school stadium was chosen by the Washington County Emergency Management Agency. Agency officials deemed it a perfect location to conduct the drill.

The scenario facing first responders was a collpase of the stadium, causing an unknown number of “victims” to be trapped inside and under the rubble.

The stadium has not been used since the end of the 2011 Cougar season. The stadium is used for midget football play, but the grandstands have been condemned, Whiten said.

The drill began at 8 a.m. and was wrapped up by 4 p.m.

The site also had ample parking for participants and room to operate during the daylong drill.

Whiten said firefighters from Charleroi, Fallowfield Township, Lock Four, Bentleyville and Stockdale participated. Mon Valley Emergency Medical Service also participated.

Crews from the Washington County Department of Public Safety, and emergency responders from as far away as Erie, Pittsburgh, and Oil City participated.

The state team also includes a doctor, who can crawl in and do more medical treatments, as well as a civil engineer, who can do measurements and determine where emergency responders can and cannot go.

Close to 200 emergency responders participated.

“This is the first time in my 35 years in the fire department that we were involved in this type of training,” Whiten said.

“We know if we have a disaster like this – like a collapse of a building or facility – we have the resources and now the training.”

Personnel from UPMC Prehospital Care Program operated high-tech mannequins which mimicked human victims, including breathing, talking and hand movements.

The operators of these mannequins sat in different remote location to operate the mannequins.

Whiten said Glenn Canon, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency director, said Saturday's drill had the largest turnout ever for the event.

“We were ecstatic to help out and that we had a good turnout,” Whiten said. “Our guys were able to get a chance to use tools they'd never used before.We were all pleased with the extra training we received.”

Whiten said the Charleroi Street Department and Urban Search And Rescue Team set up the mock disaster scenario Friday.

Whiten expressed his appreciation with Charleroi Area School District officials for granting permission to use the stadium.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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