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Local News

November 15, 2013

Area officials train for disasters

DUNCAN — In times of disaster, its comforting for communities to know they’re in good hands because county and city officials know what they’re doing.

Earth, Wind and Fire 2013 exercise took place Thursday in the Stephens County Emergency Management Offices. Exercises mandated by Oklahoma Emergency Management Office are scheduled each year to help prepare numerous entities in the state for any type of disaster. These exercises promote working as a team and being ready for any situation.

“We’re a real fortunate county,” said Gary Ball, Stephens County emergency management director. “Everyone works together really well and will help each other out however they can.”

Members of the county fire departments, police departments, sheriff’s office, along with Duncan Regional Hospital, elected officials, and the American Red Cross are some of who make up the Stephens County Emergency Management Team.

“All 77 counties in Oklahoma participate,” said Ball. “We started in April with the planning for this.”

This year’s exercise had local officials facing some extreme weather which was producing tornadoes, hail and excessive rainfall amounts. Every few minutes, a new incident was thrown at the group such as power outages or road blockage.

In order to fix the dilemma, the proper entity responded with a written solution of what they would do in a real-life situation. During the course of the exercise, fires were put out and a shelter ran by American Red Cross was installed at the Stephens County Fair & Expo Center.

Some of the situations faced were familiar to the team, such as citizen reports of wells not working because of power and electricity outages. This situation was seen during the winter ice storm a few years ago.

One thing the team went over was the registry of safe rooms in Stephens County. When severe weather, such as tornado activity, occurs in the county, authorities can sweep the area affected by the storm path. They check each safe room registered in case the occupants have been trapped.

If they can’t be located, a listed out of state contact is reached to find out more information.

“We have a few (rooms) registered,” said Jimmy Pryor, county emergency management assistant director and flood plains manager. “We need more.”

To register your safe room, visit stephenscountyok.com and look under the emergency management tab for the form.

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