A full scale drill of a simulated break of Ward Lake Dam was conducted during the evening of Thursday, May 16.
The command center for the event was located at Fire Station 1 on DeQueen Street with personnel from the Office of Emergency Management, Mena Police Department, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and Mena Fire Department. The actual drill was comprised of multiple agencies within the city and county. Rural volunteer fire departments which assisted in mutual aide for the disaster included Potter VFD, Dallas Valley VFD, Ink VFD, and Acorn VFD. The departments aided “victims” at various Ward Creek crossings in Mena and one rescue of a flood victim seeking shelter within a tree at the Mena Star .
Victims were assessed on the scene, then provided appropriate transport to Mena Regional Health System via brush trucks and one victim was air lifted to the hospital for injuries sustained from the script.
Due to a Federal regulation authority has been granted to the state of Arkansas through Department of Natural Resources to work within areas of high hazard dams. Within Mena, there are three dams of concern: Mena Lake dam, Irons Fork Dam, and the old Ward Lake Dam (which is currently used as an overflow dam during torrential rains).
Within the drill, areas were marked in town where high water is to be expected during a ‘break’. Two locations where ‘victims’ were retrieved were Sonic by Ward Creek and Mena Insurance Agency. Staff members at MRHS were receiving victims unaware of the drill to ensure that all emergency management protocols and measures were met.
Other entities who participated in the drill were: Air Evac Lifeteam, Mena Water Utilities, Arkansas DNR, Mayor Seth Smith and the City of Mena, Rich Mountain Nursing and Rehab., Mena Public Schools and various individuals.
The teams will soon get their performance grade and begin planning for the next full scale drill which will most likely be a tabletop exercise according to Mena Fire Chief, Steve Egger.