City and County train for attack, disaster
By LPR Staff
Would Caldwell County first responders be prepared to help if a major disaster or terror attack hit Austin? A two-day training exercise taking place this week should answer that question.
Over the last three years, Caldwell County has received more than $500,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the
Department of Homeland Security. The funds were earmarked for communications equipment, ensuring that Caldwell County first responders can communicate not only with one another, but with agencies from surrounding counties.
This week”s training seeks to make sure that the funds were spent wisely.
“They”ve given us all this money to buy these radios,” said Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Parker. “Now they want to see that we know how to use the equipment.”
According to Parker, the training exercise was set to begin around 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
In explaining the training scenario, Parker described what might be one of every Central Texan”s worst nightmares.
“There”s going to be a convention of some sort at the Convention Center in Austin,” he said. “During that convention, there will be a series of explosions at the Convention Center and another series of explosions at the Capitol. The idea is to tax Austin”s resources to the point that they need outside help.”
At that point, the other cities and counties in the Capitol Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) would be called into action.
Parker said that the Emergency Management Office in Austin would be calling the shots, so to speak, during the training. They would be responsible for designating communication channels and staging areas.
To further complicate the training, Parker said that at some point, an emergency would be staged in Caldwell County, as well.
“While we”re making sure our communications work with the surrounding counties, they”re going to throw a curve ball at us,” he said. “We don”t know what kind of disaster they might throw at us, they aren”t going to tell us until they call it out. It could be a weapons of mass destruction attack, or it could be a car accident. It could be in Mustang Ridge and it could be out in Luling. We just don”t know, and that”s part of the drill.”
The second part of the drill, Parker said, is designed to make sure that Caldwell County agencies can communicate among themselves.
“At this stage, they”re just testing us on communication,” he said. “We aren”t actually going to have to commit personnel at this point, except maybe three or four people.”
Parker said that although there have been disasters such as floods that called for an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to be opened in Caldwell County, this is the first time he can recall such a drill taking place.
The training is sponsored by the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center from Texas A&M University. Parker said the group has been conducting similar training scenarios across the state.
“We”re going to do our best to conduct ourselves along the guidelines they set out,” he said. “It should be fun and interesting.”