State Farm, emergency officials plan disaster drill
By JOHN DAVIS JR.
jdavis@newschief.com

WINTER HAVEN, FL -- Local businesses and public service agencies will participate in a mock disaster scene at several locations throughout east Polk next Thursday.

Planning for the event has been extensive, said State Farm Insurance representatives, who have been at the forefront of the project.

The idea was to test response to a chemical incident with mass casualties in and around Winter Haven and Lake Wales, and provide a challenge to area responders.

Participating will be: Winter Haven Police Department, Winter Haven Fire Department, Lake Wales Fire Department, Lake Wales Police Department, Red Cross, Polk County Hazardous Materials teams, Polk County Fire and Rescue, Winter Haven Hospital and Lake Wales Medical Center.

"Victims" will be students from area schools, with 40 patients coming from Bartow High School, 30 coming from Winter Haven Hospital and 10 being located at Lake Wales Medical Center.

Six critically "wounded" people will also be present during the exercise for decontamination, said State Farm personnel.

County officials have saluted the exercise, and hope to see it conducted again in coming years, they said.

Despite the use of State Farm's building on Cypress Gardens Boulevard during the exercise, corporate spokesperson Thomas Hagerty said no interruption to policyholders will occur during the training session, and the 2,000 employees' safety inside the building will be ensured.

Cypress Gardens Boulevard will not be used for constant transport of emergency victims during the exercise, operation officials added.

"We didn't want people driving by seeing all the emergency vehicles thinking, 'What's wrong at State Farm?'" Hagerty stated Thursday.

The event will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday and continue until 11 a.m., according to the agenda.

Story from http://www.polkonline.com/stories/11..._drill.shtml?p