PALESTINE—Local government leaders, employees, and first responders who participated in a mock disaster drill on April 11, were treated to an unexpected surprise during the event. The all day exercise in emergency preparedness was based on a simulated pandemic caused by a form of incurable bird flu and lasted from 7am to 7pm.
A mock press conference was held around 4pm and “reporters” were invited to ask questions of local leaders. One reporter questioned the wisdom of even holding an “in-person” press conference noting the deadly virus was transmitted by human contact and then asked, “Wouldn’t it make sense to utilize some form of electronic communication with the general public in order to minimize as much human contact as possible?”
Palestine Mayor Therrell Thomas, owner of Thomas Glass & Mirror and a partner in a local liquor store, then stepped forward dressed in a giant promotional chicken suit advising other officials, “I’ve got this”. To the delight of those gathered, the mayor began handing out free booze proclaiming, “Hey, the guy’s right, this bird crap’s incurable and we’re all probably infected anyway, so we might as well have some fun while we can.” When reminded this was only a drill and not a real event, the mayor replied, “practice makes perfect, isn’t that what drills are all about?” The mayor went on to announce, “had this been an actual emergency, the booze would certainly have been free”. He then earned donations from the crowd, numbering about sixty, by squawking like a chicken while performing what he called the “bird flu shuffle”. One observer noted, “So much for our mayor remaining unflappable in times of trouble”.
Follow-up exercises and briefings will be held in the fall in order to assess and work on areas of improvement. After a long day, the mayor dismissed the group with the assurance that “disaster preparedness is my top priority”. He then distributed coupons offering deep discounts on liquor purchases for those wanting to “work at home on their drinking skills” in preparation for a real disaster.