Adair County is training for an emergency

Emergency Management Director Jim Hughes speaks with team members of Adair County Emergency Operations Center before beginning practical training exercise. (KTVO:Riley Fannon)

It’s the morning of May 2nd, 2019 and a threat of severe weather exists across the Heartland.

Just before 9:00 a.m., a powerful EF-4 tornado strikes Kirksville and the surrounding area.

A worst case scenario, extensive damage across the city and the public is in need of rescue and recovery.

It’s for events like this, that the members of the Adair County EOC train.

Adair County Emergency Management Director, Jim Hughes, spoke with KTVO about the training they did.

So we just do these on a somewhat regular basis, we haven’t done a full-scale one for a while. We do a lot of table tops, very valuable to do that, but this is actually going to require people to respond to a specific location and assume specific duties and then interact as they would in a real event.

The EOC or Emergency Operations Center is where the team of local and state EMS as well as community leaders work from in the aftermath of a destructive event.

Destructive event could mean anything from a severe storm to other natural disasters like earthquakes, they would activate it during an illness epidemic and countless other scenarios that involve widespread destruction or public panic.

So why in the middle of winter would a full-scale activation exercise be about tornadoes?

So a tornado is a boom kind of a thing and then we would need everybody to respond to the EOC and to assume those positions.

Using an event that would require immediate action is a great stress test, according to Hughes.

Initially EOC members would receive a notification by text, email and phone call saying they need to respond to the EOC.

In Wednesday’s exercise it was a notification that a tornado struck at 8:45 and to be at the EOC by 9 A.M.

From there priority positions would be filled by those with the most experience and expertise.

Positions like Incident Commander would be based around the event. Rescue ops would likely require a fire department commander, health epidemics would mean Adair County Health Department would take lead and so on.

The EOC is meant to be a well oiled machine with each position dealing with a specific action.

Operations command would deal directly with first responder action.

Planning command would be in charge of the action plan.

Logistics command would allocate all resources and so on.

In the aftermath of the storm these groups would be working to set up staging points for teams to work out of in the field.

They would direct debris clearing teams, rescue teams, medical teams and more.

Recovery operations won’t be immediate and that’s exactly what the exercise was meant to train for.

We wanted to go weeks and so this was an event that would have required EOC activation and sustainment for a period of several weeks.

Modeled after the 2009 Kirksville tornado, but increased in strength, the EOC members put in hours of training to make sure they would be able to respond quickly and appropriately to this kind of event.

It’s nothing new or local either. The National Response Plan and National Incident Management System were created post 911 so that all EOC teams across the country follow general federal guidelines.

Making it easier for those involved to work together in getting life back to normal.

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