Simulated disaster to strike county next week
Integrated emergency management courses “place public officials and emergency personnel in a realistic crisis situation within a structured learning environment,” according to training specialist Douglas Kahn of FEMA.
The course will include lectures, discussions and small-group workshops, interspersed with role-playing scenarios that culminate in a final exercise simulating the kind of situation that a massive earthquake might be expected to cause, Kahn said.
County and state officials frequently hold emergency simulations for a variety of situations, but County Emergency Manager Doug McGillivray told the McMinnville city council earlier this year that the FEMA course would be a “once-in-lifetime opportunity” for local officials to test how well their existing emergency plans would work in such a major catastrophe, and obtain advice from numerous experts for making improvements.
Kahn said that FEMA will even bring in special telephones for the exercises, that can be shut off, so that participants are forced to practice finding alternate communication methods.
Participants will be asked to examine multiple issues; figuring out, for example, whether the emergency radios are operational, while also determining whether they have enough personnel on hand to respond to multiple emergencies at once; such as a house fire at the same time that train cars have come off the tracks in another location, and collapsed bridges are making travel challenging.
The scenarios are made as realistic as possible, Kahn said.
That’s complicated, of course, by the fact that a subduction zone earthquake of the type geologists predict could occur here has not struck the lower continental United States since 1700. Nonetheless, Kahn said, there are plenty of parallels to examine, including the massive 9.2 magnitude quake that struck south-central Alaska in 1964 and subduction quakes and tsunamis in other parts of the world.
Individuals need to make their own family emergency plans, and be prepared to be on their own for at least 72 hours after a disaster, he said.
Information is available online, at www.training.fema.gov/is, he said. To help children learn more about disaster planning in a non-frightening way, he said, there is a website called www.disasterhero.com, where they can play online games that teach them how to prepare for and behave during a disaster.