Emergency exercise establishes roles
Communication is key when it comes to emergencies.
This was identified as the main area to focus on at a recent tabletop exercise conducted by Hubbard County Emergency Manager Brian Halbasch. Several representatives from law enforcement, first responders, fire department and other agencies attended.
"No plan is going to survive first contact," Halbasch said. "That's why we want to collaborate. Communication is one of the biggest concerns always."
The scenario for the mock exercise was that a propane storage tank explodes at the AmeriGas stockyard in Park Rapids and has resulted in a fire and aftermath explosions sending flaming debris to the nearby Cenex agricultural fertilizer storage plant and Gas Service Company, igniting a secondary fire.
All fires were sending a plume of smoke and toxins into the air drifting toward the city of Park Rapids, causing a partial evacuation. Propane tanks continued to explode, burn and ignite, fueling the fire. The scene of the mock fire was within 1,000 feet of the Park Rapids Fire Department, which sustained damage, and mutual aid was requested from the Nevis Fire Department due to the loss of one fire engine.
In the scenario, two people injured in need of medical attention.
The purpose of the scenario was to test and evaluate onsite incident management and communications.
Halbasch said radio communication among emergency responders needs to be a priority. The ability to be on a shared channel can make the job a lot easier, several people indicated.
In an emergency situation such as this, it is necessary to establish a joint information center and a Public Information Officer to address the media.
The purpose of the exercise was to assess the ability to establish and maintain a communications network among several jurisdictions, define roles during the rescue and response elements and examine the ability of local response agencies to implement a plan to resolve such an incident.
Halbasch said he will continue to work on the county's Hazard Mitigation Plan and use comments from this exercise to help with this document.
The tabletop exercise was paid for by a grant from Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management and United States Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness.