OCEAN CITY – Ocean City Emergency Services this week participated in a mock “man down” drill with Delmarva Power at a high voltage electric substation in the resort to practice the joint response to an individual or individuals injured or worse.
Shortly after 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Delmarva Power emergency vehicles along with Ocean City Emergency Services responded to the company’s Maridel substation on 41st Street near the Roland E. Powell Convention Center for a staged “man down” exercise. Prior to their arrival, an unidentified “victim” was placed carefully at the base of one the facility’s high voltage generators on the site.
Delmarva Power crews arrived on the scene first and opened the heavily secured facility to gain access to the mock victim. A mock 911 call went out reporting one or more unresponsive victims at the facility with one a potential fatality. To add a different wrinkle to the drill, one of the Delmarva Power employees who responded first to the scene feigned a heart attack, further complicating the rescue efforts.
While Delmarva Power employees attempted CPR on the heart attack “victim,” the first Ocean City paramedic crew arrived and quickly stabilized and removed that victim. However, when the second paramedic crew arrived, they coordinated with Delmarva Power crews on how to best reach and ultimately care for the original victim, who remained unconscious under the high voltage generator on the facility.
While Ocean City emergency responders attempted to figure out a way to safely reach the victim without injuring him further or endangering themselves, Delmarva Power responders attempted to make the entire response area safer by neutralizing the substation or re-routing power away from the victim.
The intent of the drill was to test the power company’s response to a real-time incident involving an incident at one of its electric substations involving personal injury. Delmarva Power coordinated the drill with Ocean City Emergency Services in order to gage how prepared its agencies were for an incident involving an electric substation.
“Throughout the year, we conduct quite a few internal drills in order to test our people’s response times and effectiveness in response to an incident at one of our facilities,” said Delmarva Power spokesman Jim Smith. “Once in a while, it’s a good idea to run external drills involving outside emergency response agencies to make sure we know how to coordinate our responses. This is a great opportunity to do just that.”
Of course, the high-voltage facility in Ocean City is protected by a high fence with locked gates, but it is still possible for an individual or individuals to get inside, running the risk of severe injury or worse. Smith explained a recent increase in copper thefts and the thefts of other metals and equipment made Tuesday’s drill in Ocean City timely.
“We’ve seen a real increase in copper thefts in the last year or so at our facilities,” he said. “Some of them are going to the extremes of breaking into very dangerous substations with high voltage lines and equipment all around.”
Smith said the successes and possible shortcomings of the response efforts would be evaluated following Tuesday’s drill.
“After its over, we’re going to get everybody involved together to talk about it,” he said. “We’re going to assess what went well and what didn’t so we have a good plan in place going forward. We thank Ocean City Emergency Services for participating in this drill with our people. The first and foremost concern in our industry in safety and preparedness, for our employees and the general public.”