MT. VERNON, IL (KFVS) - Firefighters from four counties all came together on Saturday, Jan. 12 in Mt. Vernon, IL to hold a full-scale exercise training.
Dozens of firefighters from departments in Jefferson County, Washington County, Wayne County and Marion County came together as part of the Illinois Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) Division 47 to participate in the public safety exercise.
The exercise was called "Operation Water Buffalo" where fire personnel simulated a large structure fire during a terrorist attack that left the area without water. Officials utilized a lake in Mt. Vernon to carry over to the exercise site where they pumped 1,000 gallons a minute into a reservoir.
Firefighters had to become familiar with different size hoses and other equipment with each fire truck that came through to help bring water to the simulated disaster.
Mt. Vernon Fire Kevin Sargent said it's important that the firefighters train with each other to make sure things are efficient as possible in a real disaster that requires mutual aid.
"It's critically vital that we do this, that we exercise and train," Sargent said. "If we make a mistake or we don't have that particular piece of equipment or something doesn't work right, then we want that during training. We don't want to do that when the real deal is happening."
Sargent said it's important they take away from this exercise and analyze what didn't work to fix it and make sure they are ready to go at a moments notice to help out another crew.
"We've already identified some problems with communication, some of our equipment doesn't match up with other department's equipment and things of that nature," Sargent explained. "So we are learning that today so we can fix it for in case the accident were to happen tomorrow."
Sargent also mentioned it's more than just learning the other department's gear, it's also getting to know their fellow firefighters and their roles.
"I'm seeing people I've never seen before in the fire service from other communities. I may know their fire chief but I don't know them," Sargent stated. "So it's great that we get to see each other and get to know each other. Then if we're going to their communities, they're like, 'Hey, Mt. Vernon's here. We know you guys. Thanks for helping us out.' That's what we're doing today."
The objectives of this exercise also include evaluating regional emergency response, regional public safety response, regional public safety coordination, and law enforcement response.