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TUESDAY, JULY 17, 2007
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EMA planning disaster exercise for Aug. 15

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

Morgan County emergency personnel and community support agencies can expect their most challenging test for disaster response readiness.

On Aug. 15, the Emergency Management Agency will conduct a mock disaster at Morgan County Fairgrounds, and unlike previous exercises, the agencies tested don't know exactly what to expect.

Two years ago, EMA conducted a tornado response exercise with good results, but that was partly because everyone knew what to expect, said Johnny Cantrell, EMA planning and operations coordinator.

The agencies are familiar with the scenario EMA will play out in August, so it's not like they'll be caught completely off guard, Cantrell said. The agencies, however, will not be able to rehearse for the disaster.

"It will be a situation for an event that could happen," he said. "They're going to have to react on the fly as they would in a real situation."

The goal of the exercise is to expose unidentified response needs, Cantrell said.

The exercise is part of a federal initiative called the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program. It will involve law enforcement, fire and emergency medical personnel as well as local volunteers and the American Red Cross. It will involve about 150 participants: actors, controllers and evaluators.

The Department of Homeland Security issued $10,000 to conduct the exercise.

Cantrell said he hopes to conduct similar exercises once a year.

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