Once again, it is time for the annual Blue Grass Community Exercise. Those who witness increased first responder activity across the county on Tuesday and Wednesday should not be alarmed, but rather feel secure that all efforts to maintain top performance via training are being made.
The goal set forth by the Madison County Emergency Management Agency and Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (EMA/CSEPP) is to "improve emergency response readiness capabilities," according to the departments last year.
Exercise planners will create a mock scenario at the Blue Grass Army Depot, for a drill that extends to ten Kentucky counties.
Participants will include first responders, emergency agencies and other organizations. The State Emergency Center will also participate, according to Michael Bryant, deputy EMA director/CSEPP director of administration.
Kelley McBride, Public Information Officer for Madison County EMA/CSEPP, said each year, the county is evaluated for their response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Kick off will be Tuesday night with an out of sequence decontamination-zone exercise at Berea Church of God on Rash Road. Victims will be played by EKU nursing students to allow for as real a scenario as possible for first responders, said Dustin Heiser, deputy EMA director/ CSEPP operations manager.
On Wednesday, the exercise will take place between 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a start time unknown for a realistic "cold start," after the Emergency Management Center receives a call from the Depot with a mock scenario.
Test alarms will sound, as will indoor Advisor Alert Radios. Some alerts may be seen on cable TV. This year, there will not be a test the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) on cell phones. However, FEMA will be sending out a nationwide test via cellphone on Thursday, McBride said.
Baptist Health Richmond and St. Joseph Berea will both participate Wednesday with smaller decontamination zones, while approximately six local school will be critiqued in their response as well. Due to a limited amount of FEMA evaluators, McBride said some schools participated early.
McBride assured that the risk of an accident at the Blue Grass Army Depot is low, but that emergency officials practice so they can be ready and provide the best service should a time of need arise.
"It's not likely anything will ever happen with the chemicals (on the Depot) but we want to be prepared for the worst event, even if we don't think it will ever happen," she said.
Additionally, the extra practice prepares first responders for real world response, such as for natural disasters like tornados, flooding and snowstorms which can and will occur.
Having participated in approximately 21 such exercises, Bryant said each of Madison County's first responder and emergency response agencies perform with excellence under pressure and work well together in accomplishing their respective jobs.
"We want citizens to know that this level of practice and drill is being done to help test our preparedness in the event a (disaster) were to occur," added Heiser.
As September is National Preparedness Month, McBride urged families to take some time Wednesday and think about preparing their own emergency plan, if they have not done so already. Each home should have an emergency preparedness kit consisting of scissors, plastic sheeting and duct tape, along with enough supplies to last 72 hours. Plastic sheeting should be pre-cut to cover windows, doors, vents and outlets of a selected room where one could shelter in place until further instruction.
Bryant noted Madison County will receive an evaluation report by the following Monday. Afterwards they have an opportunity to respond. The final report is sent to Congress.
For more information, visit MadisonCountyky.us/ema.
Reach Critley King at 624-6623; follow her on Twitter @critleyking.