Members of the Audrain County Emergency Management Agency were asked by the administration of the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia recently to observe a full-scale, functional exercise held on the grounds of the prison in the eastern Audrain County community.
Audrain County Emergency Management Director Steve Shaw and Public Information Officer Chris Newbrough spent the exercise, held at 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning on the grounds of the WERDCC, watching the employees work through a scenario and seeing how the employees and the local emergency community responded.
The exercise focused on a made-up scenario in which one of the housing units on the campus caught fire and there were injured personnel and inmates.
After the evacuation of the inmates to another secure, nearby area on the campus by the correctional officers, members of the Vandalia Ambulance District were allowed to come in and “rescue” the injured, played by nurses employed at the prison. Also on hand in a support role for the exercise were the Vandalia Police Department and the Audrain County Sheriff’s office.
“This was a chance for the employees to gather training on a possible scenario at the prison and for them to gain experience in moving a lot of prisoners in a short amount of time,” Shaw said. “It also gave employees at the prison a chance to work and interact with local emergency responders in the community that they will rely on in the time of emergency.”
Chief of Custody Major Derek Hendren said having an outside agency on hand to observe the operation gave insights about their planning to the exercise committee they otherwise would not have gotten.
“For the past two years, WERDCC has requested assistance for the Yearly Disaster Drills from the Audrain County EMA, and that agency has assisted with the development and practicality of the drills without fail,” Hendren said.
“EMA’s participation has become an important part and success of these scenarios, and with EMA on board, these outside agencies better understand the procedures and policies of our facility, allowing us to resolve any issues during a drill and not in a true emergency.“
Shaw said he and his department look forward to working with the WERDCC in the future on more exercises.
“By being able to be involved in their training at this level, it helps us when we set out plans for our county’s Emergency Operations Plan,” he said.
“By knowing what they are planning through working together on their exercises, it makes my job that much easier knowing they are squared away on their plans if, and when, a disaster should strike.”