The Liberty County Office of Emergency Management is making sure essential personnel and supporting agencies are ready and coordinating their efforts for the 2018 hurricane season.
L-EMA hosted a tabletop exercise on the topics of evacuations and sheltering last week at its EOC office. The exercise was attended by agencies from surrounding communities as well as from the state and federal level.
The training was facilitated by Ted Robinson, FEMA’s national exercise division facilitator, and Julie Kaltenbach, FEMA’s emergency management specialist with the exercise doctrine and technology integration section.
L-EMA Deputy Director Larry Logan said being chosen as the training site to cover the scenario exercise was significant.
“There are 159 counties in the state so being picked is huge,” he said.
A tabletop exercise allows participants to review their current emergency operation plans, have open discussions with partnering agencies and make improvements or adjustments to their current plan as needed.
It allows agencies to bounce ideas and share things which could ultimately safe people and property before, during and after a hurricane or natural disaster.
During the first module of the exercise Robinson allowed the group to review their plans and preparations for an incoming hurricane that was 120 hours prior to land fall along the southeast coast of Georgia. Robinson said the storm was anticipated to be a category 2 storm and that Liberty County had already received six inches of rain.
Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jon Long noted that with that much rainfall already, there might be areas of the county with mild to moderate flooding. He said those areas might need to be evacuated sooner than others.
Logan said it also meant that there might be a lot of downed trees and power lines due to the wet and loose soil.
The group identified the need to coordinate their efforts with Florida EOC operations due to the traffic flow along the I-95 and I-75 corridors.
“By the time we are thinking of evacuation, it means Floridians are likely already on the road,” Chuck Ray from GEMA said.
The group also identified the need to locate and establish possible shelter locations and create memorandums of understanding with partnering agencies early. That way when evacuations are mandated people will know where to go, shelters will be prepared to accept evacuees and the agencies will already have their expectations noted in writing.
Throughout the day several scenarios allowed the group to tweak their planning and collaborate with each other.
Logan said they found that a timeline matrix would be beneficial for the local EOC operations. He said last year social media and the alert Liberty system helped get information out to the community and added that they are also adding pre-scripted messages to their system.
Logan said the exercise helped them to address items that needed updating. But he added it also showed that their current plan should meet the needs of the community during a crisis.
“Before the exercise I would rate us as a 6 (on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being the best),” Logan said. “After the exercise we are possibly at an 8.”