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Preparing for the worst: East Texas emergency response teams hold multi-county training

Updated: Oct. 15, 2019 at 3:52 PM CDT
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(KLTV) - The wounds will range from scratches to life-threatening injuries and the impact area will be widespread; however, when a “tornado” crashes through multiple East Texas counties this week, emergency responders will get valuable practice on the best way to respond.

Multiple counties are taking part in disaster preparedness drills on Wednesday, Oct. 16 and Thursday, Oct. 17 in Camp, Cherokee, Gregg, Henderson, Panola, Rusk, Smith, Upshur, and Wood counties. The “tornado” will be one of the scenarios first responders, hospitals, clinics, and long-term healthcare facilities prepare for.

“Across the entire region, they practice doing different types of scenarios for emergencies. They’re required to do so by federal law at least once a year, so this is one way they like to do that," said David Chenault, spokesperson for Rusk County Office of Emergency Management. “We like to cooperate with each other.”

Chenault said this year, more agencies than ever are taking part in the preparedness training, including police departments, sheriff’s offices, fire departments, emergency management offices, hospitals and clinics, nursing homes, local amateur HAM radio operators, and more.

Volunteers, many from area colleges, will play “victims” to make the experience as real as...
Volunteers, many from area colleges, will play “victims” to make the experience as real as possible for everyone involved. (Source: Rusk County Office of Emergency Management)(Rusk County Office of Emergency Management)

“We’ll have the hospital, which will be practicing a surge of patients coming into their facility. We’ve got a couple of nursing homes in our county that will practice evacuation drills; how they would move one place to another,” Chenault explained.

Volunteers, many from area colleges, will play “victims” to make the experience as real as possible for everyone involved.

“It’s not a table-top drill, it’s an actual live drill in real-time so that we get the effect of how is this going to affect our process, our people; do we have our procedures in place? Are our protocols properly set up so we know what we’re doing?”

Most importantly, Chenault said, the drill will give emergency response teams the ability to identify where issues might arise when disaster actually strikes, and how to better prepare for when that time inevitably comes.

“The whole idea is to make mistakes so that we can go back afterward and say okay, what did we do? How did we not do things well?" Chenault said. "And that we as a county can cooperate with each other and know who needs what, when, and how we can better serve the public in the time of disaster.”

Cherokee and Henderson counties training will be held Wednesday, Oct. 16 from 9 a.m. to noon; Gregg, Panola, and Rusk counties will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Camp, Upshur, and Wood counties training will be held Thursday, Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon; Smith County’s training will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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