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Emergency Preparedness in Cerro Gordo County

September 10, 2019 07:59 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Along with schools, hospitals, and other government services, Cerro Gordo County hosted its yearly full-scale emergency exercise on Tuesday.
 
"We want to make sure that our plans reflect reality, that our people feel comfortable when they come into the operations center, that it's not something brand new to them, they know what their job is, their responsibility, it keeps it fresh. We learn. This is the place to make mistakes," said Steve O’Neil, Coordinator for Cerro Gordo County Emergency Management Agency.

During the exercise, organizers created a scenario based on a terrorist group performing a major power grid outage, in which the entire state of Iowa was without power. That meant that teams had to make those real phone calls to dispatch and other resources.

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"We don't simulate. They make telephone calls, they send resources out, everything's done in real-time or as real as we can. They state that it's an exercise and then kind of explains the situation. Whoever they're talking to is to play it as real as they can too." O’Neil said.

A team of care professionals also took part in the full-scale drill. Organizers say the number one goal in the exercise is to keep participants actively working together to try to figure out what's happening around them.

"There were still things that came up that weren't thought of or situations that happened that you kind of go, oh wow, that would have been awful had we not thought of something to help or to do with that," said Kay Hohenfield, Director of the Salvation Army Adult Day Health Center.

Participants say it was an eye-opening experience.

"You get to a point where you can't get food any more, you can't get medicine, you can't get supplies. You're basically like going in the forest chopping down trees to make a fire outside to maybe cook what you can find or something. Cold hard reality hit the farther we got into the exercise," Hohenfield said.
 
Cerro Gordo County emergency management says they do this exercise with different scenarios annually. They also hold smaller variations of the training four times a year.

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