Criminal Justice

Westville Correctional Facility Holds Disaster Drill

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(Westville firefighters find a “victim” during Tuesday’s disaster drill.  Photo courtesy Westville Correctional Facility)

A summary of the event, from the WCC:


With lights and sirens, local safety agencies responded to the annual disaster drill conducted Tuesday morning at the Westville Correctional Facility (WCC).

The facility housing 3300+ inmates simulated a powerhouse explosion of one of its four boilers and subsequent fire with possible structural damage. Four staff members played the parts of victims injured in the blast, complete with mock injuries and wounds.

Local agencies responding to the call for assistance through the La Porte County 911 Center included the Westville Fire and Police Departments, the La Porte County Sheriff’s Department, La Porte County EMS and the Indiana State Police.

The exercise lasted just over one hour, with a debriefing after the event involving key staff from all the agencies to suggest improvements for the future. This is the fourth such disaster drill conducted by WCC.

According to WCC Public Information Officer John Schrader, one of the unique aspects of this year’s exercise was the introduction of the possibility of a chlorine gas leak at the site. “While there was no actual leak, the mere possibility of its presence created a significant safety factor that had to be considered by the first responders, since exposure can be lethal.”

Both Westville Fire Chief Sean Jacks and Marshall Jim Gunning noted a faster response in processing the vehicles and all their equipment and personnel to the disaster site compared to prior years. The emergency commander at the site, WCC Safety Hazard manager John Salyer, commented, “This is why we run these drills. We realized from prior drills that rapid response and entry procedures were an issue, we made changes, and now we know those changes work.”

WCC Superintendent Levenhagen noted, “All responders have learned over the years that our first responsibility is to assess, ‘Is the scene safe?’ We no longer simply rush into a situation individually, but take our time and coordinate our efforts to get the best results possible, relying on each other’s expertise and knowledge.”

Based on the lessons learned today, even more improvements will be expected in next year’s scenario.


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