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LEPC conducts tabletop exercise

By Staff | Oct 1, 2014

Tyler County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee met on Sept. 25 for their regular monthly meeting.

On hand were local members from industry, the Wetzel-Tyler Health Department, Emergency Medical Services, media, labor, volunteers, hospital employees, Environmental Protection Agency, county commissioner, homeland security, and the Tyler County Office of Emergency Management. Breakfast, sponsored by Eureka Hunter, was served to all in attendance.

Tom Cooper, director of the Tyler County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), thanked everyone for coming and informed the group that the meeting was going to be a working day as the group would simulate a scenario focusing on an emergency situation.

Pat Walsh, chairman of the LEPC, opened the meeting by introducing Darren Dudson of Noble Energy. Dudson welcomed the group to the meeting. He said table top exercises are effective in helping groups solve problems.

Dudson introduced himself as the facilitator of the simulated exercise for the purpose of training those in attendance. The Tyler County Emergency Planning Committee, through the Office of Emergency Management, put together the exercise to simulate an emergency situation using artificialities and assumptions and focus on administrative and player roles and responsibilities if a disaster did happen. The scope and purpose of the exercise was to prepare each person and group in attendance along with all members of the LEPC to be able to work together and make things work as smoothly as possible, should an actual event occur.

The scenario presented to the group was one with four separate events, all potentially dangerous, unfolding near the same time and located close together, with an actual disaster occurring as a result. Dudson told the group it would be a learning opportunity and a day to ask questions. He said the focus would be on what to do in a real life situation as each event unfolds. He said such things as traffic control, critical decision making, location of the incidents, evacuations, and notifications and teamwork are all necessary to save lives and protect citizens. He said the structure of the table top exercise is to focus on activities involving a simulated incident and getting each person or organization familiar with their roles and responsibilities. Part of those roles and responsibilities is to respect each other’s opinions and inputs, as disagreements always impede progress.

Cooper explained the role he would play in the event of an incident where traffic was impeded and a life threatening disaster had occurred. He also explained the roles and responsibilities of those who work as volunteers with his office. Cooper said he would set up an emergency office and would be in direct contact with many of the other agencies to try and have a coordinated effort to control the situation. He said communication with the public would be a major concern. Trying to evacuate and get people out of danger and into shelters would also be top priority.

Overall, the day proved to be a great learning experience for all involved. There were many ideas exchanged and nearly everyone participated in the questions and answers; each person and organization present came away with a better understanding of their responsibility and role in the event of a major disaster affecting the local area.