Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

November 13, 2013

Getting ready in case of disaster

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — With last year’s round of severe systems barreling down on parts of Oklahoma first responders of all kinds, including those in Garvin County, are getting ready.

One way to do that is hold an organized mock exercise to see what areas work well and what needs some improvement when it comes to responding to the many emergencies left in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Garvin County emergency officials are among the many across the state taking part in a kind of drill this week to test not only their communications but also what’s called the WEB EOC, which stands for Statewide Emergency Operations Center.

Most counties in Oklahoma are expected to participate in the exercise planned for Thursday, Nov. 14, said Garvin County’s emergency management director Bud Ramming.

The drill itself is called “Earth, Wind and Fire.” Don’t let the name fool you as emergency officials and their vehicles may be more visible to the public on the day of the exercise.

“No that’s not the name of a band but what we’re calling this drill we’re doing statewide,” Ramming said, referring to the exercise’s title.

The scenario for this mock drill is the National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for Garvin County.

In the exercise radar shows a severe thunderstorm approaching capable of producing a tornado moving 20 mph.

Emergency officials here will be responding to the scenario of widespread power outages and tornado touchdowns with extensive injuries and damage throughout the county.

“This is a way for us to test our communications with each other and to work together and see how serious of a situation we can handle without asking for assistance from the state,” Ramming said.

“We’ll be testing several things,” he said. “The biggest letdown with emergencies is communications. We have to be able to communicate with each agency and each town.

“This allows us to find out about the resources we do have in the county. It also allows us to know more about the response times.”

On the state level the drill is intended to test the capabilities of the emergency operations center and see if it can handle the overload of a large-scale situation, Ramming adds.

“They’re wanting to test the computer system,” he said. “We’re also looking to react to the emergencies we’re having in our county.”

As for the public, the drill is expected to bring little attention to itself with some exceptions.

“The public won’t see anything,” Ramming said.

“The one thing the public might see is there could a larger amount of emergency vehicles on the streets during the day,” he said.

“But this is a training exercise and not an emergency.”

The exercise is expected to begin early in the morning and continue until about mid-afternoon Thursday, Ramming said.