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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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2/14/2013 10:00:00 PM
GETTING THE 3 A.M. CALL: PV tests emergency operations in surprise drill
Heidi Dahms Foster, Prescott Valley Tribune/Courtesy photoPrescott Valley Police Cmdr. James Edelstein takes town department heads through an emergency scenario Tuesday morning as Police Chief Bill Fessler looks on.
Heidi Dahms Foster, Prescott Valley Tribune/Courtesy photo
Prescott Valley Police Cmdr. James Edelstein takes town department heads through an emergency scenario Tuesday morning as Police Chief Bill Fessler looks on.
Heidi Dahms-Foster
Special to The Daily Courier

As most of Prescott Valley slept in the early hours of Tuesday morning, police and town staff leaders, along with volunteers, filtered into the police department in response to a 3 a.m. callout.

The event was a mock activation of Prescott Valley's Emergency Operations Center, and most of the people who received a phone call or text, including council members and department heads, had no advance notice.

Prescott Valley Police Cmdr. James Edelstein and Town Manager Larry Tarkowski, along with Yavapai County Emergency Services Manager Hugh Vallely, put Tuesday's exercise together. Police Chief Bill Fessler also knew in advance about the exercise.

Tarkowski said he was pleased that most council members and town department heads were able to respond and get to the command area within 30-45 minutes, some traveling from as far away as Chino Valley.

If Tuesday's scenario had been real, Jeep Posse volunteers or public works employees with four-wheel drive vehicles would have had to transport many of the players.

Vallely, Edelstein and Tarkowski used the Prescott area's legendary 1967 blizzard as a guideline for the Tuesday scenario, except that 46 years down the road, Prescott Valley has more than 40,000 people to shepherd through such a major incident.

As principal players entered, some chipper and swigging coffee, and others sporting some wild hairstyles and yawning widely, Edelstein took command of the exercise.

The first order of business was to set up the communications center, something that with more notice already would have been done. But Edelstein wanted to see how quickly it could be set up.

Then, town leaders such as Tarkowski, Mayor Harvey Skoog, and council members went to the administrative offices of the Civic Center while the rest of the department heads and town staff stayed at the police department. They would be in the trenches, reporting to the administrative staff on a regular basis.

Edelstein laid out the original snowstorm scenario and, as their brains began to awaken, staff members quickly fired off solutions for the deep snow, power outages, and communications difficulties.

But things went quickly south when Edelstein added new challenges - car accidents, a bus rollover, closures of Highways 89A and 69 and Fain Road, and calls from residents who were cold or hurt.

Crucial actions were identified, such as keeping the hospital powered, and opening Tim's Toyota Center and schools as shelters for people who didn't have heat. Vallely mentioned Animal Disaster Services because, he said, people's pets are like their children.

Generators surfaced at the top of the discussions because they would be required to run the wastewater treatment plant and well pumps, as well as keeping some local industrial materials safe.

Vallely explained the role the County Emergency Management Services would play and how they would assist Prescott Valley in a disaster scenario. The drama played out much like an organized brainstorming session, with everyone adding specialized knowledge and ideas to each new challenge. This works especially well for a small town like Prescott Valley, Vallely said.

"Everyone there had suggestions, and that's what it's all about. Everyone comes with experience that helps coordinate that end product. They are able to identify what is needed and where to get it. They seem to do that pretty well," he said.

"That's why we have drills, to see how things work. When the rubber hits the road, things come up that you don't foresee. Practice is the best thing," he said.

"We identified some areas that we can improve on," Edelstein said. "Particularly knowing the location of generators and whether or not people have serviced them for medical needs, long-term care, and more. Overall, it was a huge success. The management group was looking at the same scenarios and they were coming up with, 'How do we handle it."'

The scenario ended at 7:30 a.m., and the organizers said that overall they were pleased with the exercise. They will send out a critique, and all participants will develop a review of what they did well and what they can work on in the future.

Vallely added that the town would do more training in March with the executive group to better identify their roles in a disaster.

ICT - Arizona Society of CPAs 180x150

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, February 18, 2013
Article comment by: ziglveit b schtoonk

when does the alien invasion begin?

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Article comment by: The Rev

Every command I have seen had a primary. Do you have an example of previous events that did not have a single point NoName2? Sounds interesting in theory but I question the practicality of it.

Thank you for pointing me to the FEMA site.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: to the Rev

"Who has authority during actual events? Who is The Boss?"

Under any event where there are multiple agencies and policies than the answer is "Unified Command".

A simple ICS principle where mutliple leaders share resources and assets without losing control of them.

FEMA ICS 100 & 200 basics - free on-line training

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: The Rev

@NoName: Ultimately during such events God is in charge but frequently a terrestrial liaison assists with those plans. If the noun bothers you substitute in Fate, Chance or one of your choosing.

Thank you Not on The inside.

May Larry's skills in this capacity never be required.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: @ TheRev

Your god is the boss. Frightening thought, eh?

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: Not on The inside

@The Rev, Larry Tarkowski.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: The Rev

Who has authority during actual events? Who is The Boss?

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: MR RESIDENT

Why wasn't this a "County Wide" exercise?

In reality an weather related incident will impact County Wide assets and WILL impact Prescott Valley's response, resources and their Emergency Operation Center.

What shortfalls were identified and what corrective action plans are in order?

That's the questions the media should cover, building public confidence.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: PV Resident

So why wasn't the local first responders involved in this drill. CYFD and lifeline department heads should have been there as they would have to deal with the people who are injured and sick. I do appreciate their effort but it seems to lack the serious component of emergency responders. They would play a key role in helping people out during a disaster. proving treatment and transportation to the hospital or a some sort of medical shelter.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: Reed Winfrey

Thank you town staff for putting forth the effort to protect our town. Anyone can work the 9-5 and sit back to critique others. To the volunteers that do this job without pay I would like to point you out for "extra credit" because ,, "It's not your responsibility" but you care enough to work for the folks in Prescott Valley too.
Thank you all to everyone that took part in this exercise.

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