A delegation of 72, including representatives from city and county government, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, hospitals, universities, public health and more, took the four-day training course Sept. 23-26 at the Emergency Management Institute, a federal training center in Emmitsburg, Md.
The course was split 50-50 between classroom training and exercises, culminating in a day-long emergency response exercise in which officials had to respond to a bombing in Winston-Salem, said August Vernon, the operations officer for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Office of Emergency Management.
“As part of their preparation work, the instructors came to Forsyth County and visited sites that they used in the training,” Vernon said. “While we were there, it was like we were in Winston-Salem. The resources they said we had available to respond with were very realistic, the addresses were very realistic, the settings were very realistic. They even came up with a video that looked like a local building exploding.”
Local officials had to act quickly to get the training, Vernon said. “They just developed this course and wanted to conduct a pilot program with a mid-size city first. Typically, local communities have six to nine months advance notice; we had 60 days.” One challenge, he said, was in securing the availability not only of first responders, but of the many other agencies that typically might be involved in an emergency, such as the Red Cross, local hospitals and schools, transportation and public works officials, and others, Vernon said. “We had to scramble, but we got everybody up there we wanted.”
Cost, however, was not a factor: The institute covered the cost of transportation and lodging in Emmitsburg; local officials had to cover only the cost of their meals. The delegation included one elected official, Council Member Denise Adams.
The training is not yet over, Vernon said. “As part of the process, they’ll come back here about eight weeks after the training and we’ll go over the lessons learned and the plan we’ve put together to address the vulnerabilities and shortcomings that were identified during the training.”
Mel Sadler, the emergency management director, said that the training was valuable for multiple reasons. “This individualized training session will pay off not only in the short term by making us better prepared, but in helping us develop long-term inter-agency relationships and a working knowledge of the community partners we will work with during a real emergency.”"
- A Press Release