More than 50 department heads, employees, first responders and others needed for a rapid response in case of large-scale emergency event gathered in the basement of Department of Public Services Tuesday to practice something they hope they never need to use.
The township's emergency response plan was activated and implemented as part of an annual training exercise designed to prepare key staff and stakeholders for what could happen in the event of a HAZMAT situation, natural disaster or any other potentially catastrophic event. Tuesday's selection was a complex scenario sparked by the rupture of the Sun Oil pipeline, which carries oil underground from Franklin Road to Long Lake Road, and Long Lake to Square Lake Road, and Square Lake through to Troy.
The simulation started with a call about a neighbor that collapsed surrounded by a gray fog, and then intensified with reports of a large explosion that demolished homes and trapped people beneath the rubble. Multiple casualties, including fatalities, were reported and the complicated response covered search and rescue efforts, evacuations, media releases and how to aid first responders.
"We tried to step it up this year with a challenging exercise," said Fire Marshal Mike McCulley, who facilitated the process Tuesday. "The idea is to start small and then build up to something big, and this was the biggest we’ve done yet."
Huddled around large tables with desktop computers phones and maps, officials tried to coordinate their specific roles in the emergency response and anticipate any problems. In all, scores of residents had to be evacuated, dozens of injuries were reported and the explosion caused an estimated $44 million in damages.
In addition to the township, representatives from the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Consumers Power, DTE, HazMat, Oakway Technical Rescue, the Michigan State Police Emergency Management Homeland Security office, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency all participated in the three-hour exercise.
“I love the collaborative aspect of this where you can see different departments doing their jobs and working together," said Christine Tvaroha, director of the Bloomfield Township Senior Services.