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Senior community employees practice emergency reaction

September 23, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Staff members at a senior living community got a whiff of emergency response Wednesday as they simulated a chemical leak.

When a fire alarm went off at The Village at Robinwood, employees helped evacuate five residents from the ground floor and six people portraying residents from an upper floor.

Pete McMillin, director of marketing and sales for The Village at Robinwood and its sister campus, Ravenwood Lutheran Village, said state law requires a drill and tabletop simulations of emergencies.

Some people played their roles with gusto. Gary Hahne, portraying a worried and confused resident, asked several times whether his cat would be rescued.

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During a recap discussion, Jodi Murphy, executive director of Diakon Senior Living-Hagerstown, which operates the senior communities, said she was pleasantly surprised by how quickly employees found residents, and those playing residents, and escorted them outside.

There were a few missteps, however.

Murphy said too many people went to the scene of the emergency instead of first reporting to a command center.

Someone pointed out that employees got too close to the pretend vapor cloud.

Participants were handed details about the emergency as the drill unfolded.

A county emergency communications representative said eight people called 911 as part of the drill and calmly answered questions and provided information.

Verna Brown, the county's emergency management coordinator, said she was amazed while watching employees react to the fire alarm.

"I saw a fire extinguisher in everybody's hand," she said.

If there had been an actual emergency, though, firetrucks, ambulances and emergency crews would have been there, Brown said. The event was tailored to let The Village at Robinwood staff handle the evacuation and take people to Ravenwood Lutheran Village.

Kevin Lewis, the county's director of fire and emergency services, said drills help people practice and improve.

"Events like this are vital," he said.

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