By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

FEMA taps county for disaster training

“We do four of these a year where we come to you,” said FEMA instructor Doug Kahn. “This is a really, really big deal.”

Sue Lamb, the county’s assistant emergency manager, said every city in Yamhill County has committed at least one member of its staff for the entire four-day training run.

“That says a lot in terms of collaboration,” she said. “That’s the kind of support the feds are looking for.”

County Emergency Manager Doug McGillivray applied for consideration two years ago. He said he was very pleased to see the county’s application rise to the top.

Kahn said it would cost the county more than $150,000 to stage this kind of exercise on its own. But McGillivray said participating in the federal version will cost nothing more than staff time and four days of lunch fare for participants.

FEMA instructor Barry Breslin said 15 different aspects or scenarios will be simulated. He said the goal isn’t for participants to succeed in every one of them, only to identify when it did well and what it didn’t do so well.

“The point is to come away with a laundry list of things to improve,” he said. “Let’s see how sound your plans are. This is the place to make mistakes so you can improve.”

Breslin described himself as a “ringleader of disaster-making.” Kahn said the goal is to make the exercise miserable but meaningful, “in a good way, for a good cause.”

Breslin said, “There’s no test, but the exercises will be strenuous. We are going to push the county’s capabilities, working to design reasonable exercises that are going to give everyone a chance to participate.”

Few will know the scenarios in advance. They will have to respond to whichever they are assigned. 

“You will react according to your training, plans and procedures,” Breslin said. “We’ll improve your readiness by putting you through the paces. Consider these field tests so you’re battle ready.”

The exercise is scheduled to run April 29 to May 2. 

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