NexusPark to be county’s ‘casualty collection point’ in the event of catastrophe during solar eclipse

First-responders have spent over a year preparing if the worst should happen during large-scale events in the Columbus area during the solar eclipse.

Bartholomew County Emergency Management have been working with first-responders and utilities, as well as street and highway departments, to develop what is called a mass casualty plan, emergency management director Shannan Cooke said.

A mass casualty incident is any natural or man-made incident where local management agencies and the healthcare system are overwhelmed, according to the National Institutes of Health. As in the military, the word “casualty” refers to the injured and fatalities.

While some medical and governmental offices are still reviewing the plan, it is scheduled to be in place Monday when the total solar eclipse attracts as many as 150,000 people either staying in Columbus or driving through the area, Cooke said.

As part of the plan, Bartholomew County Emergency Management will set up a command center the day of the eclipse. Cooke said the center will be operational from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday to the extent that traffic and crowd size warrant it.

Not new to the city, command centers are usually set up in locations away from the public during Ethnic Expo and other events that draw large crowds, including the Mill Race Marathon..

As part of a larger plan, a memorandum of understanding has been approved between city and county governments that designates NexusPark, located off 25th Street as the county’s casualty collection point on Monday only. The new facility will be the designated location where victims are immediately managed and given preliminary medical care if needed.

The most common types of mass casualty events are caused by terrorism, mass-transportation accidents, fires or natural disasters. The last time Columbus suffered a mass casualty incident was June 7, 2008, when a catastrophic flood killed three people, injured dozens more, damaged nearly 3,000 homes and prompted the evacuation of more than a thousand local residents and 157 hospital patients.

Since the city and county is expected to be overcrowded the day of the eclipse, Cooke said it was important to find a facility that can house the most people. The city is providing NexusPark free-of-charge, she said.

A significant benefit of using NexusPark is that there are 117 medical offices in the vicinity, Cooke said. Not only will trained personnel be on hand to take care of minor injuries, but qualified individuals will be nearby to determine if those with more severe injuries should be sent to hospitals, such as trauma and burn centers in Indianapolis.

While the Department of Homeland Security has requested that counties or local governments create mass casualty plans, county officials stress there is no known threat in Bartholomew County.

In case loved ones are missing, the Community Church of Columbus, 3850 N. Marr Road, will serve as Bartholomew County’s family reunification and information center, Cooke said.