Augusta officials face disaster “what if’s”
By Doug Endres, Staff writerTuesday, June 22, 2010 12:19 PM CDT
The village of Augusta held an emergency tabletop exercise as the first part of a three-step process in being NIMS compliant.Representatives from Augusta, the fire protection district, Augusta police, state police, county ESDA, and Blessing Hospital worked on five objectives related to an ice storm scenario. The scenario had the ice storm coming from the south and knocking out all power in Augusta and a small portion of power in Plymouth.The tabletop exercise is the first of a three-step process of being NIMS (National Incident Management System) compliant. Each step is taken once per year. Step two is a functional scenario exercise and step three is a full scale scenario exercise. Each step adds more objectives as the complexity of the situation increases, which tests the ability of each emergency response team do do its job and interact with other teams effectively.“We do a write up of what we do and send it into IEMA,” said Cyndia Avise, deputy emergency manager for Augusta. “It creates an action plan that every organization gets, stating what they need to improve on.“Every time we do an exercise, we can learn from the last exercise.”The gathered emergency personnel worked on five objectives: incident command/unified command, communications, fire operations, law enforcement, and an emergency operations center.
Augusta has seen several real incidents like train derailments that have provided practice for its emergency personnel.“Last year we had some down drafts that took down some power lines,” said Avise. “We had to block off some streets and work with the electrical company and the railroad. There were sparks coming off some lines with some trees nearby so we had to watch for trees catching on fire. We had some people on oxygen that had to be evacuated from their homes that did not have power.”Residents who have special needs connected with power can call the city or the fire department and be put on a list of people to be checked during a power outage.County ESDA director Jack Curfman said Augusta is one of the most active municipalities in terms of holding exercises and talking about preparedness.“They’ve had a lot of actual disasters here so they get a lot of practice,” he said.Curfman said not every elected official realizes the legal requirements they have in regards to emergencies.“Many people who are elected officials don’t necessarily realize all the responsibilites they have signed up for,” said Curfman. “The chief elected official in each town is, by law, the emergency manager for their community. There’s more to the job than some people realize.”Each municipality is required to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours in an emergency.This is the third year in a row that Augusta has participated is an exercise of some kind and the fourth one in the last five years, including a countywide earthquake scenario exercise last year.The Augusta Lions Club was in charge of preparing food. Food was donated by the city and local businesses.
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