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      Columbia emergency personnel prepare for natural disaster

      WEST COLUMBIA (WACH) -- More than three hundred personnel from twenty-one local agencies and nine hospitals taking part in a mock national disaster drill at the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission Hangar at Columbia Metro Airport.

      The Army's Federal Coordinating Center out of Fort Jackson and the South Carolina Forestry Commission were the major coordinating contacts.

      Organizers say it took nearly a year to put the drill together.

      "This scenario is a 7.7 earthquake out west. Thousands of causalities, they can't go to their local hospitals they have to be flown across the United States," says Scott Hawkins, SC Forestry Commission.

      The exercise brought together federal, state and local emergency agencies to help improve communications in the event of a real national disaster. The mock patients were local nursing students.

      Some of the things we worry about are the critical nature of the patient TMs illness or injury. For instance is someone requiring critical care right now or can they walk and talk for a little while," says Chris Lombardozzi, Spartanburg, South Carolina.

      The four day exercise started May 16th and ends on May 20th. Even with all the manpower taxpayers don't have to worry about footing the bill.

      All agencies donate their time and their services and we are very grateful for that. In the event of a real activation, the mission activation order would come also with an additional funding amount," says Colonel Cathryn Snyder, Fort Jackson.