A Missouri State University class responds to a mock tornado strike on Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- If a tornado hits Springfield, there are dozens of people who would jump into action and know their roles.

The Missouri State University students we met this week might never end up in one of those jobs, but they now have a better understanding of how the system works to keep you safe, thanks to a tornado response training.

The students used a miniature city during the exercise to learn how to deploy resources. The training was done entirely as if it were actually happening.

"The tornadoes are expected to be strong, if not violent," said Steve Runnels, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the Springfield NWS. "The potential for long track tornadoes certainly exists."

The threat of severe weather didn't faze Mitchell Easter.

"So far, we do have casualties," Easter said as he looked over the mock scene.

Easter is a graduate student at Missouri State, going for his master's in public administration. But on this night, he was incident commander, coordinating with his team on a tornado response in Springfield.

"I would get with weather and ask them," he said to a teammate. "Making sure there's not another message we should be sending out."

It's a scenario Larry Woods knows how important it is to prepare for.

"They're in the process now, trying to get their hands around the situation," said Woods.

Woods is in charge of Emergency Management for the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management.

"They're starting to set up their command elements now, trying to establish perimeters, get their resources into the scene," he said.

Those resources include police, fire and ambulance.

"On Adams and Commerce, we'll do a collection point there," Easter said as he pointed the location to dispatch the units, placing them where they can try and help.

"Have we gotten the kids out yet?" asked Easter. "No, we're still working on it," replied his teammate.

"Are these engines gonna be enough to handle this type of structural collapse?" Woods asked of the class.

The class also learned how to handle the public in a disaster.

"We have search and rescue teams that are going to that location," said Easter. "So we wanna make sure they stay out of the way and let us do our jobs."

And how to deal with the media.

It's all part of Dr. David Johnson's response training class. He stressed teamwork in this kind of situation.

"Nobody's gonna be able to pull this kinda stuff off without having some kind of structure," said Dr. Johnson, Missouri State Pol. Sci. Program Director.