11/02/2011

Huge turnout for Ohio zombie emergency drill


By Allison Manning
The Columbus Dispatch

DELAWARE, Ohio — With shredded skin and sunken eyes, zombies rattled fences, moaned loudly and shuffled their way across the Ohio Wesleyan University campus yesterday, all in the name of emergency preparedness.

Taking advantage of zombie fever and the Halloween holiday, Delaware County emergency-management officials held their largest drill ever. They typically get about 20 volunteers for a practice exercise. Yesterday, they had 10 times that.

"The fact that you have people who want to be here, want to do this, that takes the uniqueness of the drill to a whole new level," said Michael Schuiling, assistant chief of the Delaware County EMS.

Emergency officials from across the county arrived at the university's Selby Stadium to deal with a pretend toxic-chemical spill that turned regular residents into the living dead. They decontaminated the "zombies" with a fire hose and distributed medication in the form of Skittles and M&Ms.

Zombie-movie buffs will take exception to the county's neutralization technique -- the only way to kill a zombie is by destroying its brain -- but a shower is the best way to decontaminate people en masse after a real hazardous-materials situation.

The event was serious work for the dozens of emergency forces. Safety workers donned hazmat suits, police shut down roads, and several zombies were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital to be decontaminated.

Two firefighters were accidentally turned into zombies, to simulate the kind of contamination that could happen in a real toxic spill.

Wendy Jones, who lives in Upper Arlington, brought her three sons and daughter to the drill. The entire zombie family, from 4-year-old Jackson to 15-year-old Trey, took advantage of a day off school.

"It's a way to combine Halloween and help and have fun," she said.

Nicole Bond, 16, and her boyfriend, Kaylor Marzel, 15, both of Delaware, spent more than $100 on costumes and hours applying makeup to transform into a zombie bride and groom.

Anita and Adam Clay of Columbus' Far West Side celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary at the drill as zombie Nos. 60 and 61. Anita Clay, 31, said it was the perfect anniversary present for her 34-year-old husband, who's hard to buy for.

"I think it's a blast," he said.

The State Emergency Response Commission evaluated the exercise. A quick debriefing was held after the two-hour exercise, and another meeting will be held in about a week to determine where the county needs to improve.

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