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Atterbury plans for disaster practice

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On Thursday, a medical helicopter will touch down at a local hospital, and the emergency room will be flooded with people wounded and dying from a terrorist attack.

The casualties will all be pretend — dummies and actors in makeup — but the simulation will give local officials a chance to practice how they would stay organized and respond in the event of a real emergency.

Starting this week, U.S. Army North units are back at Camp Atterbury near Edinburgh for the annual Vibrant Response emergency preparedness drill. More than 5,500 military and civilian personnel have arrived at Camp Atterbury for the three-week training exercise, which helps soldiers practice for how they would help in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

Military units are called to help with disasters only when local, state and federal emergency responders are overwhelmed, so soldiers don’t get much real-world experience working with civilian groups such as hospital staff or local health departments. Vibrant Response helps soldiers train to help in natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes or earthquakes or after nuclear or terrorist attacks.

The exercise also gives the county’s emergency management and health department staff an opportunity to put their emergency response plans to the test, emergency management agency director Stephanie Sichting said.

That testing allows the county to review its plan and make changes if something doesn’t work as well in practice as it sounds on paper before a real-life emergency, she said.

“It gives us time in our own setting in a controlled environment to work our plan to see what we can improve on,” Sichting said. “We can sit back and critique it.”

Medical helicopters will practice making landings and bringing patients into Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.

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