Archive for Thursday, July 8, 2004

Emergency officials head for training camp

July 8, 2004


Up to 80 high-ranking emergency officials are getting ready to go to camp.

The officials from governments and agencies in Douglas County -- police supervisors, fire chiefs, government administrators and elected officials -- are cleared to enroll in a weeklong Integrated Emergency Management Course, at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's training camp in Emmitsburg, Md.

FEMA provides such training to officials from 10 communities each year, and previous enrollees include representatives from Shawnee, Wyandotte and Sedgwick counties.

The goal: to ensure that top decision-makers in local governments can work together to pull the community through a disaster, whether it's a tornado, terrorist attack or other emergency.

"We certainly want to be prepared when some calamity comes up, and that calamity will come up; it's just a question of when and what," said Craig Weinaug, county administrator.

During the training course, the calamity will be fictional -- written as part of a scripted scenario to be faced by police supervisors, fire chiefs, government administrators and elected officials from the county.

All will be tested in a real-time environment, isolated from the day-to-day business back home and focused on getting the most out of their resources.

"The beauty of going to Maryland and going there is nobody will be interrupted by phone calls," said Paula Phillips, the county's director of emergency management. "Nobody will be called away to meetings. People will really be able to focus on who are we and who do we need to be."

Travel and training expenses will be paid by the federal government, leaving participants responsible only for buying their food. Phillips estimates that the cost of a week of food in the training area's cafeteria, would cost less than $100 per person.

Douglas County officials applied for the program in April and recently received word of their acceptance. Each year only 10 communities are approved for the training.

Federal officials now are working to schedule the training -- likely in December, May or next September.

The training should prepare government officials to make the best out of the worst situations, Weinaug said, no matter when they might arise.

"When an emergency or a disaster happens, that's when you need to be ready," Weinaug said. "We can't say, 'OK, let's go get the training, we have a tornado coming.' Or, 'Hey, let's get the training, a flood's on the way.' It doesn't work like that. ...

"This (training) will provide a context for us to better understand how to deal with emergencies. It's a very important responsibility."

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