County plans disaster
By By Lisa Tindell
It is a disaster in the making – literally.
David Adams, director of Escambia County Emergency Management Agency, is heading a plan that will put the entire county in the middle of a manufactured disaster.
A standing-room only meeting was held Thursday afternoon to plan a drill that will test the response of emergency workers, public and private.
"This will be a full scale drill for Escambia County," Adams said. "The drill is being designed to test the ability of emergency response teams in our county to respond to a disaster should one occur."
At the close of Thursday afternoon's meeting in Flomaton, plans are being made for just such a disaster to take place sometime in mid-April.
"This drill will be planned by you, the trusted agents, in this county," said Lee Helms, owner of a consulting company setting the plan into action.
"We will all work together to make the plan work and meet objectives for your county."
Helms, who has 25 years experience in emergency management, is heading up a team of consultants trained to perform such drills that test the response ability of emergency personnel.
"We will work the plan with your and coordinate the drill," Helms said. "We aren't here to give you a grade of A or F. This is a training situation that will look at the entire response process."
The drill is being planned in response to requirements of counties across the state made by the Department of Homeland Security.
"These drills will show Homeland Security that you are using the equipment you have purchase through funds from their organization," Helms said. "It will also help us to help you show areas that need additional funding from them, too. All of this will help with funding requests made to the Department of Homeland Security."
Helms said the emergency could be planned from a variety of viewpoints.
"We could make a plan that would call for a quick response on a variety of levels," Helms said. "The emergency could be weapons of mass destruction, hazardous materials spill, a hostage situation like Columbine, a bio-terrorism threat or any other number of scenarios. That's what we are here to plan today."
Specific times, locations and manufactured emergency information will be held in secret until drill is called.
"We don't want to give to much information away," Adams said. "The trusted agents, or those who are involved in the planning process, will be the only people who will have access to details of the drills.
"We want our emergency response personnel to respond to the drill as if it were an actual emergency," Adams said. "Our goal is to determine where our strengths and weaknesses are and determine what we can do to be fully prepared in the event of an emergency."
Area agencies represented at Thursday's meeting included personnel from Brewton Police and Fire Departments, Es.Cty. Sheriff's Department, D.W. McMillan Hospital Ambulance Service, Flomaton Police and Fire Departments, Atmore Police and Fire Department, Es. Cty. Volunteer Fire Fighters, Es.Cty. Rescue Department, Es. Cty. Search and Rescue team, Kelley's Ambulance Service, Poarch Creek Indians Police Department and Poarch Creek Indians Tribal officials, Red Cross and the Es. Cty. Humane Society.