That’s the term that best describes how emergency personnel, Washington Fair Board members, city employees and officials, and volunteers responded before a major lightning and rainstorm lashed the Washington Fairgrounds Saturday night.
Thanks to years of prior training and planning, everyone was prepared with a unified command plan to address such a weather emergency and all worked together to get people off the fairgrounds before the major part of the storm struck.
As a result, only one person sustained a minor injury during the evacuation.
It could have been much different without prior warning and planning.
When the decision was made to cancel the REO Speedwagon concert and evacuate the grounds in advance of the severe storm, emergency and Fair workers followed their established emergency plan and knew their assigned tasks and where to go in order to expedite the evacuation.
Officials located children on the grounds without their parents and moved them to the Home Ec building with police officers until they could be picked up. People waiting for shuttle buses also were sheltered in the Home Ec building until their buses arrived.
Moving 11,000-plus people off the grounds in the face of stormy weather is a major undertaking to say the least.
However, thanks to advance planning, the entire operation worked like a well-oiled machine.
Although there was some grumbling by patrons who didn’t want to leave — despite rain pouring down and the heavier storm approaching — the overall response from people was positive. There also were plenty of tense moments as parents searched for their children and plenty of frustration due to delays for the shuttle buses and exiting the parking lots.
But considering the severity of the storm, it was a remarkable achievement that almost every one got off the grounds safely.
What else was impressive was the Fair Board rallied early Sunday morning to get the grounds in shape so people could enjoy the final day. It was no small feat to clear the debris and remove the water from the grounds. Fair Board members called in friends and family members to assist them with the cleanup effort. Some people just came to the fairgrounds on their own to pitch in.
One observer described the effort as “amazing” and said he had never seen so many different groups come together for one purpose. The other amazing thing is that most of the cleanup crew were volunteers.
The theme for this year’s Fair was “Making Memories.”
Saturday night’s storm certainly made this a Fair to remember.
But what was most impressive was how the Fair Board and emergency crews handled what could have been a memorable disaster.