The Beacon News

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November 27, 2008

Responders prepare for the worst

It was 3:30 in the afternoon on Aug. 30. Doppler Radar indicated severe weather in western North Dakota, and it was quickly making its way toward Mercer County. The storm packed a punch of fierce winds and heavy rains – and it was only intensifying. Suddenly, the county dispatcher’s voice cut through the casual discussion in the room. A tornado had hit Coyote Station and Dakota Westmoreland’s home base just south of Beulah. People were hurt and buildings were destroyed. Help was needed from responders throughout the county.

This was the scenario presented to emergency responders from across the county at the Local Emergency Planning Committee/Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee’s functional training exercise held at the Beulah Civic Center last Wednesday evening. The exercise was part of the Local Government Homeland Security Training and Exercise Program.

During orientation at the beginning of the evening, City Program Coordinator Joel Rostberg, North Dakota Association of Counties, said the exercise’s goals were to become familiar with the layout of Coyote Plant and Dakota Westmoreland, understand available resources, and in turn industry personnel become more familiar with the county’s resources and capabilities. The exercise also intended to familiarize responders with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department’s incident command vehicle.

"Response, cooperation and understanding – that is what we want to get out of this," Rostberg said.

"When we leave here, we hope you’ll have a better understanding of each others’ resources and responsibilities," said Assistant County Program Coordinator Rick Moszer, North Dakota Association of Counties. "This is your exercise. We just facilitate and set the stage to make it move."

A functional training exercise is a discussion-based exercise one step below a full-scale, on-site exercise, but above a tabletop scenario discussion.

The Weather Network