Ice festival a site for disaster drill

Published 5:52 am Monday, January 8, 2007

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – For most people, the Hunter Ice Festival is a weekend of entertainment.
For the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services team, the festival is a training mission. The group used the busy, cold weekend in 2006 to practice and had team members stationed all over town with festival directors and at the wine tasting tent and amphitheater.
"We all learned something, and they learned that communications are really important for an event like that, especially when you're spread out," said Robert Eisenhart, director of the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services and Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN).
The Emergency Disaster Services will treat the 2007 festival as a training mission as well. The 3rd Annual Hunter Ice Festival in downtown Niles is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 12, 13 and 14.
Eisenhart said the team will practice cold weather operations, radio communications and feeding large groups by providing carvers and festival organizers with warm beverages and sandwiches. The Emergency Disaster Services on-site feeding unit vehicle, or "canteen," will be stationed at the amphitheater.
The canteen, a full-enclosed vehicle built in 1979, is capable of serving 5,000 meals in one day, Eisenhart said. It carries a generator, propane system, small space heater, a four-burner stove and small oven, a water heater and 150-gallon fresh water tank. It is also packed with granola bars, cans of beef stew and coffee, hot chocolate and water.
An on-board radio and 20-foot antennae allows the Emergency Disaster Services team to communicate with Salvation Army teams in Chicago, Eisenhart said.
"We respond to any request from law enforcement, fire rescue or emergency medical services," he added.
Though it has less than 40,000 miles, the vehicle has had its maintenance problems – head gaskets, brakes and electrical. And, Eisenhart said Scott Clark of Clark's Service has provided all of the several thousand dollars worth of repairs at no cost to the Salvation Army.
He also said the Salvation Army is currently searching for a place to park and store the canteen indoors, which would allow for the battery to remain charged and the water tank to always stay full.
Eisenhart said the Emergency Disaster Services canteen is designed to provide food and drinks at any situation where emergency workers are on-scene for long periods of time, such as a team searching for a lost person or firefighters at a large structure fire.
The only way to practice using the canteen is to find large events like the Hunter Ice Festival, Eisenhart said, and so the Emergency Disaster Services team has used other opportunities like training sessions with the Niles Township Fire Department, the Berrien County Disaster Drill and the Harbor Community Church summer festival for training.
At the June disaster drill in Berrien Springs, the Salvation Army canteen was responsible for feeding and hydrating emergency workers too far away from the Red Cross tent, and also for providing coffee at 4 a.m. to the disaster design team. The canteen was used to distribute 200 hot dogs during the church's summer festival in Benton Harbor.
During the Hunter Ice Festival, Eisenhart said the Salvation Army team will be running sandwiches to downtown. Workers at the canteen will call in an amount of sandwiches needed to volunteers at the Salvation Army on 15th Street, who will make them by hand and then deliver to the station by the amphitheater, Eisenhart said.
"We're blessed. "We're happy to have [the canteen]," Eisenhart said. "We don't want to wish anything bad on anybody, but we want to be prepared."