Public officials, experts discuss lessons learned during West, Texas explosion

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Animation depicting an emergency beacon.
Image: Alex2564.

Public officials and other experts gave presentations earlier this week regarding lessons learned during the aftermath of an explosion which struck the small town of West, Texas in April of this year. The event, which was live-streamed to various locations across Texas, was sponsored by the Texas Department of State Health Services as a part of its Grand Rounds seminar offerings. Three officials, each of whom were heavily involved in responding to the event, gave individual presentations.

Frank Patterson, Emergency Management Coordinator for the city of Waco and McLennan County, was the first to speak. Early on, Patterson commented about injuries sustained by citizens of West who lived in the neighborhood surrounding the chemical plant where the explosion occurred. He also said 113 different agencies responded to the event. Specifically, Patterson said, "This was the first time I didn't have to request federal [agency] support. They just showed up." He also presented a broad array of photos taken from the blast site and the surrounding neighborhood, pointing out that debris was found as far as 2.5 miles away from the chemical plant. Regarding lessons learned during the days following the explosion, Patterson said all such incident teams need a social media person on-site. He also said, "Stress will take its toll on all involved."

Dana Lafayette represented the local mental healthcare provider for the county. She explained mental health professionals offered assistance following the blast, but avoided being too intrusive with citizens. Lafayette clarified, "We would walk through [the area] and hand [survivors] water, along with the information cards and say, 'If you need us, we're here.'" She also stated, "It was interesting to see the amount of resiliency within the community."

Kelly Craine, Public Information Officer for Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, also spoke. She indicated her agency's primary focus was to "create some sort of 'safe haven' for victims of the blast." Craine's agency used a local church as a gathering place for citizen displaced from their homes as a result of the incident. Notably, speaking about her agency's after action report, Craine said, "This [event's] after action report is so big, we're still working on ours."

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

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