4.5 Advance Planning and Preparation
Drills and practice were mentioned to have occurred in Aiken County, but not on the scale of the Graniteville incident. There have been large structure and wood fires that have allowed the actual experience of emergency preparedness. Monthly drills are conducted with as many local emergency management entities as possible. For example, in October 2005, Aiken County conducted a weapons-of-mass-destruction exercise. In addition, the sheriff’s COBRA team participated in a statewide drill last year in Columbia, South Carolina.
On the Local Emergency Planning Committee Web site is a section on drills and exercises. The only report listed is the Aiken/Barnwell County Transportation Emergency Preparedness Program Exercise Report ABTEPP 2001 Multiple Vehicle Accident Involving Radioactive Materials on Aiken and Barnwell Counties Line.However, during the interviews, there was no resounding response that the entities, at least the local major players, have conducted drills or practices together. There are drills and practices, but they appear to be independent and not on a coordinated local level. This particular comment has appeared in two of the three after-action reports on the incident.
Aiken County has an All Hazards Emergency Plan. However, during the interview process, there was no real mention of the plan or its relevance to the incident.
The GVW Fire Department has written plans that were used for searching the Avondale Mills facilities. The GVW Fire Department also walks down all Avondale Mills facilities annually to re-familiarize them with the layout.
Five public shelters were set up for the Graniteville incident. The first shelter was established at approximately 06:00 at the decontamination center located on the University of South Carolina-Aiken campus in the gymnasium parking lot. Approximately 300 to 400 residents registered at the shelters out of the more than 5,400 residents. It was felt that most of the evacuees stayed with family, friends, and local hotels and motels.
Four days into the operation, the railroad placed evacuees in hotels and motels, and within five days of the incident, the public shelters were closed.
February 6, 2006