A full-scale fire emergency on the campus of Jamestown Community College would indeed send shockwaves throughout the city.
Local emergency officials, in an effort to prepare the school for such an event, joined together Wednesday to conduct an hour-long disaster drill on the JCC campus.
The drill, which centered around a mock fire, was less about the flash of sirens and more about communications between the school and emergency officials.
JCC?officials in the school’s emergency operations center.
P-J photo by A.J. Rao
First responders are pictured acting as the drill’s command post.
P-J photo by A.J. Rao
Julius Leone, director of the Chautauqua County office of emergency services, described how the drill's two key players were the school's emergency operations center and the first responders' command post.
"Although we live with cellphones and computers ... communication always rises to the top as the (biggest issue)," Leone said, "When you have all these agencies coming together, good communication (is essential)."
As the drill began at 1 p.m., the Jamestown Fire Department was notified of smoke coming from the first floor of the Arts & Sciences Center.
First responders, upon arrival, quickly formed a command post outside the fire scene. The command post was composed of Jamestown police and fire officials, Alstar Ambulance and college personnel.
Inside the Hamilton Collegiate Center, college officials formed their emergency operations center in a boardroom and maintained contact with emergency officials.
As the drill progressed, participants were met with increasing concerns, from victims of smoke inhalation and distraught parents to media questions and traffic rerouting.
At approximately 2 p.m., the drill concluded with a review.
Leone said "communication" was done well, but - as always - can be improved.
"Overall, I believe the JCC staff worked together real well to solve a problem from beginning to end," he said. "The ultimate purpose of the exercise is to heighten the level of awareness ... so that if something were to happen on campus, the administrative staff and their support staff are ready to deal with that situation."
Nelson Garifi, executive director of marketing for JCC, echoed Leone.
"This (drill) tests our ability to communicate with one another within the college and our ability to communicate with other agencies," he said. "We learned some things that we do very well, and things where we need to improve. Ultimately, the goal is preparedness ... we want to be prepared should we ever put these resources into play."
Participants in the drill included the Jamestown Fire Department, Alstar Ambulance, the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office, Chautauqua County Emergency Services and Chautauqua County HAZMAT.