Those driving by Chillicothe's Litton Ag Campus Thursday morning might have been a bit startled by the scene they were witnessing. Students on stretchers. A bright yellow emergency care tent. Medical and HAZMAT personnel walking across the lawn, and through the cattle pens.
Fear not: it was but a test.
"It was a full-scale drill," said Livingston County Presiding Commissioner Eva Danner Horton. "The main purpose is to test our capabilities. That is the objective of running a drill."
Livingston County, in coordination with the City of Chillicothe, participated in a Regional Ag (Bio) Terrorism drill yesterday, on the campus, involving local fire, EMS, and law enforcement officers, city and county elected officials, HAZMAT, and manpower brought in by the Multi-Area Coordination Center, including a SEMA representative.
The Department of Agriculture put on the suspected mock outbreak of hoof and mouth disease, which began at 10 a.m., and ended at 12:30 p.m., with a notification of no hoof and mouth present on the campus.
Operations were coordinated at the area EOC (emergency operating center), held on the second floor of the Chillicothe Fire Department. Horton and Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney were seated together during the entire process.
"If it's out in the county, I'm in charge," she said. "If it's in the city, [Mayor Haney] is in charge."
Per Horton (who was in charge of this drill), 24 persons were present at the EOC, while between 40 and 50 participated in the drill at the Ag Campus.
"There were just lots and lots of players," she said. "We tested our [Public Information Official]. We used Textcaster as a means to get out information. We got a lot of good resources."
The EOC was able to communicate and work in conjunction with the cities of Meadville and Brookfield to provide possible shelter rooms for both persons and livestock involved in the incident.
"We've never gone into outside counties for help," Horton said. She said that both communities (which reside in neighboring Linn County) were very accommodating.
Also, because of the scenario, mock traffic stops were successfully held along highways 36 and 65, going in both directions.
Hedrick Medical Center also got their hand in on participation. Students on the campus feigned injuries sustained during the incident, and Hedrick was required to assist in caring for said persons under emergency conditions.
The Chillicothe Fire Department, Chillicothe Emergency Services, Chillicothe Police Department, and Livingston County Sheriff's Department all assisted one another in creating a smooth-running operation, which received high marks from the SEMA representative on hand, as well as the Department of Agriculture personnel.
"The guy from the department of ag said that [we] should have been commended," Horton said. "He said, 'if you all can handle this, you can handle just about anything."
Page 2 of 2 - Both Horton and Chillicothe Fire Chief Darrell Wright admitted that communication issues were present during the drill, but said that such things are all-too-common when these tests take place.
"We're going to work on those," Horton said. "We need to get a fax machine [in the EOC]. We did have some communications issues."
Aside from that, however, Chillicothe's and Livingston County's operational tactics were found little to no fault, and the drill ended quicker than previously anticipated.
Hoof (foot)-and-mouth disease, or Aphthae epizooticae, is a highly-infectious and sometimes fatal viral disease, usually affecting animals with cloven hooves, such as cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, antelope, deer, and bison. The virus causes fever-like symptoms for two to three days, followed by blisters within the mouth and on the feet that can rupture and cause physical impairment. Hoof-and-mouth is often considered to be more of a threat to agricultural practices than to human safety, as very few cases of human contamination have actually ever taken place. It is often spread among animals via close contact. It is a mutating virus, and, thus, vaccinations for such are continuously being updated by scientists.