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LEPC training exercise to simulate propane fire

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Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2019 3:23 pm

Madison community members are being asked to refrain from getting a closer look on Sept. 18, when emergency responders hold a county-wide disaster drill in Madison.

"They are going to see a large group of firefighters, law enforcement and ambulances, and there are going to be a large group of vehicles," said Lake County Emergency Management Director Kody Keefer.

The disaster drill will be held in the evening near the shop for the Lake County Highway Department and will involve a simulated propane fire. A fairly substantial fire will be visible, but the blaze will be controlled to prevent an explosion.

Keefer explained the disaster drill is being held "to test the system and make sure it works." The Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) is seeking to determine whether dispatch has the capabilities to handle a major disaster and whether law enforcement, local fire departments and emergency management all have the tools they need to respond.

"You want to test people's knowledge, skills and abilities, but also how the different disciplines mesh together," Keefer said.

Last year, the LEPC held a tabletop exercise to explore many of these same issues. This differs from an actual exercise because people are discussing potential problems and possible solutions while looking at maps and pictures rather than taking action in response to a simulated situation, Keefer explained.

"With your full-scale, you're testing your boots on the ground capabilities and the extent of your resources," he said.

In order to simulate a propane fire, the Office of the State Fire Marshal will be bringing in and operating a propane tree. This will allow firefighters to gain hands-on experience in dealing with a propane fire.

"It looks a lot worse than it really is," Keefer said. "There will be a visible fire and it will be substantial."

While the exercise will not pose a danger, community members are asked to stay away from the area to allow emergency responders to focus on the exercise.

"Please view it from your property," Keefer said. "Please maintain a safe distance."

He emphasized this is not simply an activity which will allow those involved to check boxes on a report, but rather an exercise which will challenge responders to test their skills and abilities.

In addition to the Office of the State Fire Marshall, the LEPC, local law enforcement and area fire departments, Madison Regional Health System and Bethel Lutheran Home will be involved in the exercise.

Those who live near the actual exercise site will receive letters from the Lake County Emergency Management Office with basic information regarding the drill.

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