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Agencies to conduct mock disaster drill at Grand Canyon

(Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Police and fire agencies in northern Arizona will be kept busy on Wednesday, as they will be participating in a mock disaster drill at the west rim of the Grand Canyon.

The drill will simulate a disaster in which a tour helicopter fails to gain altitude, and its rotors collide with a bus filled with tourists, causing the bus to rollover. Actors will play the dead and wounded.

“It’s just like you would expect,” said Scott Neal, a communications consultant who will be working with the Arizona Department of Administration. “They’ll have ambulance and fire folks in there triage and treating victims, and transporting them. They will be doing what they can to mitigate the other hazards in that situation.”

The exercise will test the nationwide public safety broadband network that was established in the aftermath of Sept. 11 to ensure better response to public safety crises.

The 9/11 Commission found that first responders from various public safety agencies had difficulty communicating with each other on existing systems during the 9/11 terror attacks. In February 2012, President Barack Obama signed legislation that created the First Responders Network Authority (FirstNet). The goal is to build a nationwide communications system dedicated to public safety. It requires specific coverage in rural areas, and Wednesday’s drill is being conducted because of concerns by Tribal nations that the rural areas may not be getting adequate coverage.

Neal said that a video signal will be sent out from the site of Wednesday’s disaster drill.

“The Kingman Hospital is working with us, and doctors there will be actually able to see and talk to victims in real time,” Neal said. “The goal of the drill is to enhance communications and the access to information. It’s to make decisions better based on better data, and to handle situations in a much more efficient manor, which will result in lives being saved.”

When it’s complete, the broadband network will cover all 50 states and six U.S. territories by the year 2022.

The following agencies are participating in Wednesday’s mock disaster drill:

  • Hualapai Nation Police and Fire Departments
  • Grand Canyon West Airport Fire Department
  • U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs
  • Grand Canyon Resort Corporation
  • Mohave County Emergency Management
  • Mohave County Sheriff’s Office
  • Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office
  • Bullhead City Fire Department
  • Kingman Fire Department

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