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Emergency Responders Put to Test in Tornado Exercise

LEXINGTON, Ky. -  “Help me!” “Can anybody hear me?”

It was a worst-case scenario at the VA Medical Center on Leestown Road in Lexington Thursday. An EF-5 tornado destroyed the hospital, leaving wounded patients crying for help.

The disaster wasn’t real, but was a test of how well central Kentucky emergency crews could spring into action.

“We triage the situation, we try to gauge what resources we’re going to need, how to best get them there, how to set up communications,” says Major Brian Wood of the Lexington Division of Fire.

It's been nearly one year since a real  EF-5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri. Tim Brandewie of the Central Kentucky Metropolitan Medical Response System says that disaster and the storms that hit eastern Kentucky this spring show what kind of devastation Mother Nature is capable of.

“We were very fortunate on March 2. You know the tornadoes that went through could have just as easily struck us and it’s just really focused our attention in making sure we’re prepared to respond to damage from tornadoes, especially in a healthcare setting where you have a very large, vulnerable population we need to take care of.”

Volunteer actors dressed up in special make-up to look like severe injuries and yelled for help to simulate the stress and urgency of a disaster. Officials will assess how well emergency personnel responded and coordinated with each other during the exercise.

Lexington native Brenna Angel anchored local morning newscasts for WUKY through May 13. She joined the station in March 2010 after previously working for WHAS-AM in Louisville.