Law-Enforcement Simulates Bridge Disaster Over Mississippi River

Miss-Lou law enforcement staged a bridge disaster drill on Tuesday that stressed the importance of communication
bridge disaster simulation
Natchez firefighter uses Jaws of Life to remove accident victim from an SUV as part of the emergency drill|Photo by Ben Hillyer/ The Natchez Democrat

The local emergency planning committees of Adams County and Concordia Parish conducted a drill Tuesday morning involving a simulated emergency event on the Mississippi River Bridge, which was staged in the parking lot of the Natchez Visitors’ Center.

The simulation involved a bus carrying 30 people colliding with an SUV while traveling westbound on the bridge.

According to Natchezdemocrat.com:

Natchez Police Department Capt. Tom Mcgehee, who helped organize the event, said one main objective of the simulation was to see how law enforcement officials worked to split the eastbound span to allow for two-way traffic as medical personnel responded to the westbound span.

“What they need to think about is they’ve got all this traffic on both sides and how are they going to get everyone back and forth?” McGehee said. “But the other part of that is how do you get people to the middle of the westbound bride to deal with the wreck?”

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According to McGehee, the biggest challenge is the width of the bridge, which is only 24-feet wide, making it nearly impossible for emergency vehicles to make a 3-point turn.

This means that emergency vehicles need to decided whether they want to drive past the accident and then backup to it, or backup all the way.

Natchez-Adams County Airport Manager Clint Pomeroy, who also helped organize the event, told the Natchez Democrat that the disaster drill helped to uncover some key communication issues between law enforcement agencies on each side of the river.

“Once of the goals in all this was to see how well we could communicate with each other on each side of the bridge, because that’s something we always discuss,” Pomeroy said. “So one of the main problems in the drill was that we weren’t able to get anyone from over there to come participate over here.”

Vidalia Assistant Police Chief, Chief Bruce Wiley, said that the main issue with coordinating an event with law enforcement agencies on both sides of the river ultimately comes down to the fact that law enforcement on either side of the river uses different radio frequencies.

Wiley said that finding a way for Natchez and Vidalia officials to communicate is key if the departments hope to effectively respond to an actual bridge disaster situation in the future.