Officials attend emergency training

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- In the event of a chemical spill in downtown Albany, there are a number of agencies and individuals that need to work together to deal with the problem in an efficient manner.

The key is working the process out before something actually occurs.

Trainers from the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center met with Albany and Dougherty County officials Wednesday at a forum allowing the area's key players to discuss strategic and executive-level issues related to disaster preparedness.

The six-hour program, also known as a senior officials workshop, allowed officials to share proven strategies and best practices as well as enhance coordination among officials responsible for disaster response.

"This is an opportunity for the city and county to discuss the challenges they face," said Rick Comley, executive programs director at TEEX. "It gives them the opportunity to look at capabilities and support each other; it's to better find out what they can do for the community.

"The worst time to trade business cards is during a disaster.

Participation of people in the community is a key part in all of this."

Those present included representatives from Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, Albany and Dougherty County government, Dougherty County School System, area law enforcement and emergency management agencies, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Palmyra Medical Center, Southwest Public Health District and Albany State University.

"As leader of the city, I have to be concerned about the welfare of the community," said Albany Mayor Willie Adams, one of the session's participants, Wednesday morning. "In a disaster, we need to make sure everyone is working together.

"(Participation in the training session) has made me conscious that I should be aware of the resources. I'm hoping (after the training) to have a better understanding of what my role should be as mayor."

The day started out with an educational session. Later in the day, officials were broken up into groups and given a scenario to work through so individual parties participating in a "table top" discussion could outline what their respective agencies would do in a similar situation.

"This helps agencies problem-solve," said Julie Miller, emergency preparedness director for the Southwest Public Health District. "This way, partners can hear each other and modify policy as necessary.

"It strengthens their ability to respond."

In the scenario, officials were expected to work on how to deal with a train carrying chemicals colliding with a tractor trailer and derailing on West Roosevelt Avenue resulting in a spill moving in a northwesterly direction. Meanwhile, there are people nearby, including a group of schoolchildren, that have been confirmed to be either sick or dead as a result of the incident.

Once the scenario was laid out for them, participants were to exchange ideas on how to handle the situation. Then, about 30 minutes later, the group was given new information, that presumably becomes available as the situation unfolds, allowing them to exercise how to more effectively work through the problem as it is happening.

"Public health is hoping to gain a stronger relationship with partners in the community," Miller said on what the district was hoping to gain from the experience.

The session was funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

There were roughly 50 local representatives participating in the training, which took place at the Law Enforcement Center on West Oglethorpe Boulevard.