County plans training exercise

A year after a powerful wind storm hit Auglaize County, local officials are making plans for a full-scale training exercise to become better prepared should such an event strike again.

The June 29 windstorm left sections of Auglaize County without power for days and caused substantial damage, but the focus for emergency responders taking part in the training is to improve communications

By law, a full-scale training exercise is required every four years by the Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency (EMA). By mirroring the wind storm, EMA Director Troy Anderson said they are going to be able to further test radio communications, to insure interoperability between different agencies.

Plans also include further developing shelter plans by working with the American Red Cross and Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, in St. Marys, as part of the training exercise.

“We are rewriting a lot of plans,” Anderson said. “We want to make sure what we have works.”

As far as communications, he said one of the main concerns during the wind storm was all the calls coming in at one time, which overwhelms the system and emergency dispatchers.

“Dispatchers did one heck of a job, but with the plan we want to redo it so it’s less stressful in nature,” Anderson said.

Part of those changes mean working out an alternative means of communication.

“For us, the wind event was almost like a (Hurricane) Sandy,” Anderson said. “Everything just hit at once. We want to make sure we check plans and preparations. It seems like every time we have a weather event it’s something unique and causes us to take another look at our plans.”

To ensure the most thorough testing of the plan, the EMA director said he wants the training exercise to be countywide.

“Those who can’t send equipment or manpower, we would like to give information to test the radio system,” Anderson said.

The main incident planned for part of the training exercise, which also is to involve hazardous materials, is to take place in a parking lot off of Industrial Drive, in Wapakoneta.

During the exercise, scheduled from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 1, both of the county’s emergency operations centers also are to be open.

“We want to test the system as if its the same event in June,” Anderson said. “We want to do it better.”

He is expecting it to be one of the largest training exercises to date and they have hired a consultant to help with its planning.