Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Former hotel makes a credible disaster scene
editor's pick urgent

Former hotel makes a credible disaster scene

  • Updated
  • 0

MERRILLVILLE — "I have a splitting headache today," a man with a shard of metal protruding from a gaping wound just above his ear said to a woman in a blood-soaked shirt.

That was a pretty typical conversation Monday afternoon in the lobby of the Star Plaza Theatre where United Front 2017, a full-scale disaster training event, was taking place inside the partially demolished Radisson Hotel near U.S. 30 and Interstate 65.

Micah Bell, a spokesman for the event, said some 700 local, state and federal first responders from Indiana, Illinois and Michigan were practicing their search and rescue skills amid the rubble of the former lodging and convention center.

"It's a very rare event. We constantly do training, but it's not every day we get to do it in a place like this," Bell said.

White Lodging closed the 343-room Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza earlier this year to make way for a new hotel in late 2018. It has paused the demolition to let the venue double as the convincing site of a tornado strike.

The Indiana National Guard, which is conducting the exercise, has salted the ruins with 152 mannequins dubbed "Rescue Ralph" and "Flat Stanley" along with a score of volunteers in gory makeup to provide a more lively presence to the disaster.

Judith Connelly, of Valparaiso, was playing a cook with a head injury. Cassandra Collier, of Plainfield, Indiana, said her role was to be a woman with no pulse.

Tech Sgt. Jared McCullough, a medic in real life, was giving another woman a fake laceration. He said he gets to be a makeup artist several times a year and doing head trauma is his favorite special effect.

Steve Coover, a simulation facilitator, told the counterfeit wounded, "Be aggressive. Shout. Make sure you get their attention. OK, let's go. The 911 call has been made."

Bell said the scenario was starting out small with several local police officers and firefighters and growing through the day to include more and more personnel working the scene.

He said there was also going to be a drone which which would fly over the rubble to spot victims and warn responders of potential safety hazards. The program also includes nighttime training.

The exercise continues today with a Media Day and Distinguished Visitors Day, which includes a United Front exercise overview, an exercise and a tour of the tornado disaster simulation.


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News


Entertainment & Dining

Latest News

Local Sports

NWI Prep Sport News

Weather Alerts