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Archive for Monday, March 2, 2009

‘Disaster week’ to test response to several scenarios

March 2, 2009

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Severe weather exercise also set for this month

Douglas County Emergency Management will offer a training session for severe weather response on March 26.

The Weather 101 course begins at 7 p.m. at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H. The event is free and open to the public. All-hazard radios with on-site programming will be sold at cost at the event.

For more information, visit the Department of Emergency Management's Web site.

Late this month, Kansas will be plagued by a series of disasters.

It will only be a drill.

“The purpose is to test the abilities of hospitals and local health departments to work in coordination with our Homeland Security partners, like law enforcement and emergency management,” said Mike Heideman, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

During the week of March 23, a different disaster scenario will be played out each day. Many counties, including Douglas County, will participate in some of them.

On the final day of the exercises, March 27, Douglas County will practice dealing with at least 200 people who show up to volunteer to help with a disaster recovery effort but aren’t affiliated with any local group. It’s a scenario that played out following tornadoes in Greensburg and Chapman, Douglas County Emergency Management Director Teri Smith said.

“We have a plan already in place for this but we’ve never tested it,” she said.

In Douglas County, it would be the job of the Roger Hill Volunteer Center to screen the prospective volunteers and determine where to assign them for work. On the day of the exercise, Roger Hill employees and volunteers will set up in Building 21 at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper St., to practice screening. The public is invited to show up and play the role of the unaffiliated volunteers.

“We’re going to see what it would be like to manage 200 volunteers, get them identified and checked out,” said Anna Forester, a representative of Americorps VISTA, who works at Roger Hill.

Also on that day, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department will conduct a drill for dispensing medication to the public at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive. The public will also be invited to show up there to participate as the recipients of the medication. No medications will actually be given out.

Other exercises that week will involve counties simulating the ordering of medical supplies from federal caches predeployed in different areas of the country. Hospitals will practice dealing with an onslaught of patients.

Details about specific disasters or epidemical outbreaks won’t be released to the counties until the week of the exercises, Heideman said.

“An important part of this is building relationships with our partners,” Heideman said. “If something were to happen, people in different sectors would know who to talk to and already have a business relationship developing with the people they would be working alongside. Everybody won’t be meeting each other for the first time in a bad situation.”

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