Most Georgians didn’t know it, but Hurricane Nicolai, a catastrophic Category 3 hurricane with 111-129 mph winds, hit the state last week. Don’t worry if you didn’t notice – the storm was a bit of fiction created to help Georgia’s emergency preparedness and response teams practice dealing with the real thing.
|DPH EPR staff mobilized during the Hurrex exercise at the 2 Peachtree Emergency Operations Center.|
Emergency preparedness and response leaders from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) took part in the drill, known as Hurrex, which was organized by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency from May 6-8. The drill is designed to prepare state, local and volunteer agencies ahead of the season known for severe storms.
“Georgia is vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms and it only takes one serious storm to devastate an area,” said Director Charley English of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) in a news release from the agency. “Hurrex 2014 allows GEMA and all of our emergency response partners to practice our ability to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a tropical weather disaster in Georgia.”
The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1.
According to GEMA, more than 400 people from state, local and volunteer organizations and the private sector took part in the drill, which simulated pre-landfall, post-landfall and recovery activities associated with the simulated hurricane. Teams practiced staffing and operating a state emergency operations center and providing support services at a reception center, evacuation shelters, a pet shelter and an aviation support operations center in areas around the state, including Atlanta, Macon and Savannah.
“Practice makes perfect. The more familiar people become with emergency response policies and procedures, the more proficient they become,” said Ken Davis, GEMA’s director of public affairs. “It benefits the residents of Georgia to have well-trained and prepared emergency management and public safety personnel in terms of an increased ability to save lives and protect property.”
DPH Exercise Coordinator Charles Braxton said the drill introduced participants to novel situations and circumstances, many of which required multi-agency coordination and collaboration to resolve.
“Exercises of this type highlight the significance of partnerships. It is essential that emergency preparedness and response partners establish relationships prior to incidents or events to reduce gaps in communication and resource requests, and most of all to reduce response times and efforts,” he said.
For DPH, the exercise was an opportunity for all emergency staff to become familiar with the communications software and technology used to help responders track and report activity before, during and after a disaster. As new resources are developed and as new professionals enter this environment, DPH EPR leaders say it’s important to have such training. The end result will be a better prepared team to help people statewide not if, but when the next emergency occurs.