Richmond Hill response report released Wednesday

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Public safety leaders unveiled a new report, analyzing their response to the deadly south side explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood.

It judged the successes of police, fire and emergency crews. It also identified areas in which things could improve.

Nikki Cocherell and her family are finally back home, nine months after the deadly southside explosion. She lives just two houses down from its epicenter.

"The house shook like nothing I've ever felt before and I heard people screaming at me to get out of the house, because the house next door was on fire," Cocherell said.

But Nikki also remembers the rescuers - police, fire, and EMS - many of whom weren't even on duty that night.

"They didn't get a phone call. They heard it. They saw the flames and everything and they just jumped in," she said.

A new report, released Wednesday, analyzed first responders' actions that night. It looked at three categories: operations, site command and communications, from immediate impact to long-term response.

The report is largely positive, echoing Nikki's experience.

"It was a difficult night. It was a chaotic night in many ways, but I saw our first responders doing a tremendous job," said Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs.

After the explosion, the Department of Public Safety gave itself kudos for getting so many rescuers to the scene. The report also gave praise for initial searches, handling traffic and establishing mobile command.

While there are so many positive stories and takeaways about what happened that night, this report is also about how they can make improvements to public safety.

"We did well! And it's hard to find those little nuggets that will make it just that much more - a better process," said Department of Audit and Performance Director Manny Mendez, who authored the report.

Some improvements include projecting the cost of a disaster early on. Handling this explosion cost the fire department alone more than $82,000 dollars.

Leaders also want to make sure the command center on site is easy to see for everyone and looks largely the same at all disasters. They'd like to better track patients and home-to-home searches, too, identifying who was home and who was out of town during the disaster.

"Did we mark the door after we did our search? So those are the little things that will add and enhance an already effective activity," Mendez explained.

It was an unprecedented test of public safety in Indianapolis last November.

"I know a lot of police officers and firefighters and everything and every time, I thank them for what they did," Cocherell said.

Now public safety leaders hope future disasters are handled even better. Riggs says the report is more than just a piece of paper. He says changes are being implemented department-by-department and there will be follow-ups on the goals at least three times a year.

The explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood killed two people and damaged or destroyed dozens of homes last November.

Monserrate Shirley, her ex-boyfriend Mark Leonard and his brother Robert Leonard were charged in connection with the blast.

Read the report here.