“Cooperation between all departments was a big strength,” Byer said. “I'm real pleased with the cooperation I got.”
Byer said 45 people participated in the mock disaster orchestrated by his office and the Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) to test various sections of the county's Emergency Operations Plan. The exercise is required by the Ohio EMA and a successful showing helps maintain grant money for emergency operations.
Byer feels the exercise was a success and added the critique from evaluators was positive, with the county receiving a special commendation for actually having elected officials present during the drill.
The elected officials, along with representatives from the Meigs County Health Department, RSVP Citizens Corps and the Ohio State University Extension Office, gathered with Byer at the emergency operations center, tracking the situation on the parking lot just as it would be done in an actual emergency.
The command center allowed Byer to keep track of who was on the ground, weather conditions, road status and what additional equipment was needed at the disaster site among other things.
Communications were relayed via the use of the MARCS radios used by emergency personnel statewide. This was the first mock disaster in which MARCS was used though it had recently been used successfully during last week's accident between a barge and pleasure boat, the drowning at Forked Run State Park and the lighting strike at Meigs EMS.
Byer said the advantage to using MARCS is its amount of frequencies and that it works well throughout the county in situations where normal emergency frequencies may run into dead spots. MARCS radio frequencies are relaying information from several towers across the entire state and clearly.
The only glitch with the MARCS radio during the exercise was noted when communications became difficult with Racine's Boat Two along the Ohio River. Byer said he believed this was due to a storm, but once the boat traveled out of the bad weather, communication was reestablished. These radios cost roughly $3,700 each, with 17 handheld units and three base units in the county.
Back on the ground, firefighters from Pomeroy, Tuppers Plains and Bashan worked on containing a fire using foam while firefighters from Racine patrolled the Ohio River. On the parking lot, law enforcement from the Meigs County Sheriff's Office and Pomeroy Police Department, as well as emergency personnel from Meigs EMS were on the scene.
Evaluators from not only the Ohio EMA but Gallia County EMA and Athens County Special Response team all provided critique though the official report from the state has not been released.
Byer said he's always looking for ways to improve emergency responses, but before the exercise even began he added he already had enough confidence in the various emergency response agencies in Meigs County and that “everybody does their job.”