EMA hosts Tropical Event Exercise

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 5/19/17

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama -- At 9 a.m. Tuesday, with the threat of Hurricane Alex in the Gulf, the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency activated the Emergency Operations Center in …

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EMA hosts Tropical Event Exercise


ROBERTSDALE, Alabama -- At 9 a.m. Tuesday, with the threat of Hurricane Alex in the Gulf, the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency activated the Emergency Operations Center in Robertsdale.

On Monday, municipal and county officials, along with Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack, met with EMA officials to discuss a plan of action to deal with the oncoming storm.

“It’s ultimately the County Commission who decides what needs to be done about evacuations, shelters and other logistics involving a storm,” said Baldwin County EMA Director Reggie Chitwood.

With a plan in place, officials go into action early the next day and by 10 a.m., they are bracing for impact as Alex, which entered the Gulf as a Category 5 storm, is set to make landfall as a major Category 3 somewhere near Mobile, putting Baldwin County on the east side of the story and in line for major damage.

“We are now at hour 36 and all emergency responders and county officials and department heads are being called in to be at the ready if needed,” Chitwood said.

Calls come in at a rapid pace as officials deal with emergencies coming in to the center and officials are called on to deal with a variety of situations.

An official from the National Weather Service is on hand to provide updates on the storm’s progress and County Commission Chairman Chris Elliott provides a briefing shortly after the top of the hour.

“It’s all about getting things back to a state of normal as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Chitwood said.

It’s a situation that with the start of Hurricane season just a few short weeks away, can be all too real for Baldwin County residents.

Fortunately for Baldwin County residents and the surrounding area, for now, Alex does not exist.

“We ask our citizens to be prepared,” Chitwood said. “This exercise is our way of ensuring that everyone involved is prepared to in the event of an actual emergency, we can provide the best service possible to our citizens.”

The Tropical Event Exercise was conducted throughout the day on Tuesday, ending at around 3 p.m.

The scenario is sent to the EMA and emergency responders throughout the state from the National Weather Service in Florida.

“This is the same scenario that is simultaneously being broadcast throughout the entire state,” Chitwood said. “It gives us a chance, not only to coordinate between agencies here in Baldwin County, but also with other agencies statewide.”

In addition to projected paths of the storm presented by the National Weather Service, Chitwood said, a call center is also set up in another room with calls coming in with mock emergency scenarios to be played out.

“We go through several different scenarios,” Chitwood said. “When a call comes in, we have to determine who takes the call and what agencies have to be coordinated to respond to the call, just like in a real situation.

“There is some starting and stopping and some things are condensed, but all in all it is just like the real thing.”

And just like the real thing, following the simulation, officials will then get together to discuss what went right, what went wrong and what changes need to be made to make the response better.

“It’s all about keeping people safe and being prepared,” Chitwood said. “You can never be too prepared.”