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In case of disaster: emergency services use exercise to prepare for worst case scenario

By Carol McIntire

A tabletop exercise involving a mock disaster at an oil and gas well site in Carroll County was so successful it is being developed into a full-scale disaster exercise.

Tom Cottis, Carroll County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director shared the news with Carroll County Commissioners last week.

“All in all it went very well,” Cottis said referring to the event that was held last Wednesday at Atwood Lake Resort. “We had 71 people there including the director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, executive director of the state EMA, a rep from the State Fire Marshal’s office and other agencies, including the oil and gas industry.”

Cottis said Carroll County emergency responders were evaluated on their response to the mock disaster by evaluators from surrounding counties. Cottis noted he was involved in planning the mock disaster, which will now be used as model throughout the state.

“They threw some curves at us, but we met all the objectives of the exercise,” he noted. “It was so successful, we are going to attempt to mirror it with a full scale exercise for our emergency responders in a couple months,” he noted.

Cottis said, although the table top exercise was successful, county agencies may have trouble communicating on the scene of an actual emergency with other agencies and emergency personnel because of different radio systems.

 “I would like to purchase an apparatus called a repeater in a box or talk box that would allow us to communicate with other counties and agencies on the site of an emergency but is a little pricey,” Cottis said. “You just put one of the radios from each agency in it and you can talk to everyone.”

The talk box, which is portable and about the size of suitcase, can accommodate up to eight different radios at one time.

Commissioner Tom Wheaton said he understands the importance of communicating at the scene of an emergency and said the county should look into purchasing a repeater.   “We need to see where we can come up the money to purchase one,” he said.

Commissioner Bob Wirkner, who attended the table top exercise as a representative of county government, was pleased with the outcome of the exercise.

“With the number of wells anticipated to be drilled in our area – 3,000 by Chesapeake alone- we need this kind of preparedness,” he said. “The exercise was very well planned and the scenario was entirely plausible. The more county agencies work together the more it will become second hand and the more prepared they will be to respond to such an event.”

Both Cottis and Wirkner said the scenario at the table top exercise took into consideration the fact that county can’t strip itself of its emergency resources entirely for one event. “We have to plan to be ready should another disaster happen at the same time in the county.”

“Exercises like this are important because we have to build our knowledge because of what is happening here,” Wheaton added. “Carroll County is changing.”

In other business, commissioners:
-SIGNED an contract with David McKarns Construction of Carrollton to proceed with the roof replacement project on the Sherrodsville EMS building. The $5,166 project is to be completed by April 30.

-SIGNED road use maintenance agreements with Cardinal Gas Services to use portions of Flint, Rose and Fargo roads for access to the Otte well connect in Rose Twp. and with Chesapeake Exploration to use portions of Marble and Mecca roads in East Twp. for access to the Coniglio well site.

-APPROVED 21 right-of-way permits as recommended by Carroll County Engineer Biran Wise. Wirkner noted Carroll County is the only county in the area not charging a fee for right-of-way permits and asked Wise to look into the possibility of doing so.

-RECEIVED the weekly dog pound report showing 10 dogs impounded, four tagged and one redeemed.

-SCHEDULED a work session with Auditor E. Leroy VanHorne to discuss how the county can set up a line of credit to pay any necessary EMA bills in the event an emergency occurs in the county and services or materials must be purchased immediately. Commissioner Jeff Ohler suggested setting up a line of credit at a local bank and Wheaton suggested using the county’s credit card. Commissioners felt the need to discuss the matter with VanHorne before taking any action.

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In case of disaster: emergency services use exercise to prepare for worst case scenario