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Leaders prep for storm season

ALBANY, Ga. -- The heads of local police, fire, and certain nonprofit groups like the American Red Cross had training last week to ensure that if a disaster occurs during this year's hurricane season, they'll all be on the same page.

Calling the two-day training session "invaluable" toward solidifying techniques and protocols that will need to be followed in the event of an emergency, Deputy Dougherty County Emergency Management Director Jim Vaught said that the training helps solidify the relationship between local first responders.

"A lot of this training is designed to make sure we're all on the same page and able to talk the same language if an incident were to occur," Vaught said. "So by having these 60-plus people in a room together receiving the same training is really invaluable should something happen."

The training furthers ongoing efforts to push a nationwide National Incident Management System or NIMS, which promotes cross training and uniform communication so that if an incident occurs that requires a multi-agency response, that everyone is essentially speaking the same language.

"After 9/11, we realized that while we had just about all the resources and assets we needed, that many of those agencies that responded had their own techniques and protocols and communication systems and it was hard for anyone to work together," Vaught said. "So that's what we're doing here this week. Just making sure that everyone is on the same page should something happen."

While a 9/11-style attack is unlikely in Southwest Georgia, a more feasible multi-agency incident would be the landfall of a major hurricane or possibly a tornado spun off a strong line of storms.

"With hurricane season upon us, it's just a good idea to strengthen our ties with the agencies here in Dougherty County and brush up on our training so that, God forbid, we have a major incident here, we're prepared," Vaught said.

Hurricane season is set to start Tuesday, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an "active to extremely active," season, according to its website.

According to a seasonal outlook issued Thursday, NOAA predicts a 70 percent probability of 14 to 23 named storms including eight to 14 hurricanes, three to seven of which could be major hurricanes with a category three or higher.

That outlook exceeds the average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes, the administration says, and is urging the public to be prepared and create hurricane kits.