Coahoma County First Responders Learn Lessons From Disaster Drill

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(Clarksdale, MS) A chaotic scene Wednesday morning in Clarksdale, Miss., where it appeared a school bus collided with a truck hauling chemicals.

But in reality, it was only a drill.

The disaster drill was staged to test first responders in Coahoma County.

And while the death and injuries in the drill weren't real, the teams taking part say they learned some valuable lessons.

Nasser Jackson is a student at Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale.

Wednesday morning he became a "pretend" victim in a realistic disaster drill.

"All I know is I was on the bus and before I knew it I was on the ground and I just heard sirens and seen lights," said Jackson.

Paramedics treated accident "mock" victims, firefighters isolated people exposed to make-believe chemicals and patients were loaded into ambulances.

The disaster drill included an additional element to make things even more believable when Kimberly Yarbrough took on the role of a frantic mother searching the accident scene for her daughter.

"Everybody's just a mess out here. Lord, you all pray for me. Lord, you all pray I find my baby. Pray I find her," said Yarbrough.

While the drill was not a surprise to Coahoma County emergency responders, De'miah Tripplett who lives nearby was caught off guard.

"I thought maybe somebody had got killed down there," said Tripplett.

At Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in Clarksdale, county firefighters set up a decontamination tent.

Spokesperson Dianne Mitchell said hospital staff handled a variety of "pretend" injuries.

"Broke bones, chest pains, anything of that nature, said Mitchell.

The disaster drill was considered a success, but Clarksdale Fire Chief Obert Douglas said issues like better communications between responding agencies will be the focus of future drills.

"We always learn something from it. We'll stage a bus wreck, a car accident, a natural disaster, things like that. We try to do that every six months or so," said Chief Douglas.