The Fayette County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) held a functional exercise Thursday evening to display the preparedness of the county in the event of a disaster.
The EMA is required to hold an evaluation regularly to show how well prepared the county would be in a potentially deadly scenario. While evaluators assess the members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), members must come together to determine the best course of action for the county if tragedy would strike. The EMA has three options on how to be evaluated. They can hold a functional evaluation, a full-scale evaluation, or they can choose a table-top evaluation.
At the meeting, members from the Washington Fire Department, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Fayette County Memorial Hospital, the American Red Cross, the Fayette County Health Department, the Fayette County Commissioners, the BPM Joint Fire District and more, worked through a functional exercise. Other members of the Ohio EMA, but from different counties, participated in the event as evaluators. They watched for criteria to be met in several areas such as communications, population protective action, traffic and access as well as utilization of EMS, the EOC and the hospital.
“I was very pleased with how things went and the turn-out,” Fayette County EMA Director Fulton Terry said. “I have not received the report on the evaluation, but as you went around the room there talking about different things, I think things were very positive. I know we aren’t perfect, but that is the reason we have these. We hold them so we can improve.”
As the functional exercise began, the group took a moment to assess what the exercise was going to assume. First, weather conditions had changed quickly in this scenario, going from a sunny day to a dark sky, high wind, lightning, thunder and hail. Secondly, an accident occurred on State Route 35 where a transport tanker, carrying isobutylene, crashes into an automobile that had pulled out in front of the tanker. Finally, the tanker sustained heavy damage and was leaking, intense fire and heavy smoke enveloped the scene, the trucker fell out of his truck door, and there is no movement from the individuals inside the automobile as they appeared to be trapped.
This exercise was different than the previously held “table-top exercise” in various ways. For instance, one person was working as a caller from the outside relaying the information of the emergency to the group. Within this scenario, the participants then imitated making phone calls to people and places to get crews on the scene and evacuate the nearby area. The group recognized the buildings within close proximity that could be in danger with a large amount of people – places such as the Southern State Community College Fayette Campus, Walmart, Home Depot and Four Seasons of Washington Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.
Terry said that nearly all those he invited for the event were in attendance. Overall, he was impressed by the group.
“My thing is, and it is something I have continued to say since I started here, ” Terry said. “I am here to save lives first, make sure people are safe and then save property. I’m not here to play games, I am here to try and help out with what we can do and to back up our responders.”
Terry said they are going to begin planning for the next evaluation, and it could be a full-scale evaluation.