Page 17 - IU Southeast Summer 2012 Mag

Basic HTML Version

IU Southeast
Summer 2012 15
is composed of emergency management
personnel from agencies across the
state. The team typically provides
support to local counties and may be
delegated command of response and
recovery efforts in certain situations.
That was the case in Henryville.
Before coming to IU, Mack, Garcia,
and Romero worked for Indiana
Homeland Security, while Fletcher
worked for Marion County Emergency
Management in Indianapolis.
Today, their first priority is IU, but
their backgrounds make them uniquely
qualified to assist the state and region.
For the Henryville tornado, the IU
team led the emergency management
response, with Mack serving as the
deputy incident commander on scene
and the director of the Clark County
Emergency Operations Center.
By the time they headed south on
March 2, daylight was waning. The
team had been monitoring the weather
situation all day, and had seen a
debris ball on radar and some damage
through early photographs, but it didn’t
compare to what they saw when they
arrived.
“The amount of devastation there was
truly amazing,” Mack said. “Roads were
completely covered with debris and
tree branches. Trees were twisted off;
telephone poles were ripped out of the
ground.”
“Initially, the most difficult part of
the response was just getting a clear
picture of what we had to deal with,”
Romero said. “Henryville was basically
at the center of a damage path that
was 49 miles long and more than a
mile wide. There were areas of Clark
County we could not access for two days
after the tornado because of downed
trees, power lines, and other hazardous
debris.”
There was no electricity, no water – and
there was no communication. With
telephone lines and cell towers down,
the only way to reach your neighbor
was the old-fashioned way – by foot.
The only lights were those from
emergency vehicles.
“The sheer number of responders was
unbelievable,” Fletcher said. “People
came from everywhere to help their
neighbors.”
When they arrived on the ground
in Henryville, Mack helped lead the
state team and the response, Garcia
organized the emergency responders
and volunteers, and Fletcher served
as the public information officer.
Romero was initially tasked to
Sellersburg, about 10 miles away
from Henryville, to set up the county’s
Emergency Operations Center. Their
most prized possessions became the
800 megahertz radios they brought
with them as it was their only form of
communication for the initial response.
By the time they arrived, local
firefighters, EMTs, and police officers
had already taken care of the most
immediate medical needs. That allowed
Mack and the team to focus on the other
parts of the response and recovery.
Sorting through the chaos
The team worked through the first
night and well into the second evening
organizing the restoration of vital
services, the care and temporary
housing of victims, and the clearing of
debris.
For Garcia, who grew up in Corydon,
Ind., it hit a little too close to home.
“I felt guilty just lying down to sleep
that first time,” he said, “because I
knew people didn’t have homes to go to.
I wanted to continue working.”
The influx of volunteers over the first
few days was another issue to work
with.
“Because of the huge outpouring of
support from emergency responders
and volunteers, it was difficult to get
a grasp on how many responders and
The
amount of
devastation
there
was truly
amazing.
Diane Mack
The path of the March 2 tornado that struck Henryville, Marysville, and other towns.