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First responders simulate disaster
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The multi-vehicle accident left many blood-covered victims scattered along Hwy 278 outside of Newton County Tuesday. Some were nursing shattered bones and cuts while others stumbled around, confused and moaning for help. The skilled first responders who arrived on scene only had an allotted amount time to take care of the injured and the shipment of radioactive waste that was involved in the wreck.

Fortunately, the victims in this particular accident were merely actors and the scene of a mass casualty, wrecked vehicles and radioactive waste was only a training exercise, created to train emergency personnel from Newton and surrounding counties along with other local, state, and federal agencies and organizations on how to respond in a disaster.

The disaster drill simulated a multi-vehicle accident on Hwy. 278 in Walton County involving a shipment of radioactive waste from the Savannah River site and a school bus. Firefighters, police officers and medical personnel, along with several high school drama students from area schools all took part in the four-hour event.

During the simulation, local responders decided the best approach would be to move the victims to a Red Cross Shelter in Newton County for treatment, said Tim Hayes, a Newton County resident who participated in the event.

"This training exercise clearly illustrates that emergency responders are prepared to provide aid for accidents involving hazardous materials," said Walton County Emergency Management Agency Director Donnie McCullough in a press release. "For any large incident there are a lot of moving parts. It is important that we practice working together today so that when a real event occurs, personnel from many different jurisdictions can respond seamlessly."

Initial response to an actual incident of this magnitude would most likely come from local "first responders," such as state or local police departments, fire departments and other emergency response personnel, according to The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) guidelines. The agency and local governments along the I-75, I-20 and I-285 corridor have emergency response plans that outline specific procedures for handling a hazardous materials transportation accident safely and effectively. Tuesday's training helped local responders be more prepared in case an incident like this occurs.

"The training made it a little more lifelike, and everyone worked together," said Hayes. "The students did a fantastic job; they stayed in their roles and were orderly and responsive."

Local first responders are trained in material identification, regulations, response procedures, and personal protection. In the event of an incident, local responders would usually contact state public health agencies, and, if necessary, the first response team would be followed by the appropriate DOE Radiological Assistance Team, according to GEMA.

For more information on Georgia's emergency response plan or GEMA, visit To learn how to prepare for disaster and create a custom kit and plan, visit Follow GEMA at, visit or view videos at