Local Public Safety Agencies Planning Annual Disaster Exercise for Tuesday
Cookeville, TENN – Every year, local emergency responders test their skills, and push the envelope more each time. This year, responders will be working at the Putnam County Fairgrounds, simulating a direct hit from a tornado. The scenario has multiple areas of impact, but for the purposes of the exercise, responders will focus on the fairground site.
Putnam County Local Emergency Planning Committee Chairman, Chief Tommy Copeland, explains this is a routine exercise. “We do these exercises every year to test our capabilities, test backup communications, and get a lot of different agencies involved to learn how we respond, and how we can do it better.”
Simulating a tornado seemed like the most logical choice to planners, who state they also took into account that the fair is coming to town. “Severe weather is one of our biggest threats in Putnam County. Mixing that with a large-scale event, like the fair, Blue Cross football championships, or any number of events creates a unique challenge,” states EMA director Tyler Smith. “We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent injuries in Putnam County, but we also have to be ready for the worst-case scenario,” Smith explained.
Taking on an exercise of this magnitude isn’t something that just a few people put together in an office, though. Months of planning, testing, and even a tabletop exercise have led up to the big day.
Putnam County Fair Board chairman John Allen explained even the Fair Board is involved in Tuesday’s exercise. “We were approached to come to the LEPC meeting and discuss using the Fair as this year’s exercise. We all understand that we have a huge responsibility for keeping our visitors safe. We have thousands of people who come through the grounds during the Fair, and that’s not a task we take lightly.”
Allen also explained that the Fair Board has been working with vendors and booth exhibitors for the exercise. “This is the week we open, so the coordination among all the groups who help us put on the Fair is important. We have been talking with everyone who is setting up and getting ready, and everyone is anxious to see what lessons come out of this that we can use to make our event better prepared for years to come,” Allen explained.
This year’s exercise is also unique since it will take place in the evening hours. “Typically, we always do exercises in the daytime. Since we chose the Fair this year, we wanted to simulate all the factors that go along with the Fair, and moving it to the evening was the most logical choice,” Copeland explained.
The exercise comes at a time when Fair safety is in the forefront of national media coverage, as a ride malfunctioned earlier this week, at the Ohio State Fair. “We are very diligent in safety at the Putnam County Fair. Our carnival company, James Gang Amusements, has an impeccable safety record, and we chose them largely based on that. We work very closely with all of our vendors to ensure the safety of our guests is paramount,” explained Allen.
Smith explains that those passing by the fairgrounds during the exercise will definitely notice the activity. “We will have a lot of emergency responders inside the fairgrounds. We will be working in a couple different areas of the grounds, steering clear of the ride setup. We don’t want to interrupt the safety practices and checklists for that.” Copeland continued, “We appreciate the Fair Board, and their willingness to let us use the Fair as this year’s exercise. It’s important to us that we learn lessons from this to keep all our community events safe, and the Fair Board is volunteering their time, and letting us interrupt their schedule, to help benefit all of Putnam County. We sincerely appreciate that.”
The exercise is set to begin around 6:30pm Tuesday, and will last until around 9:00pm. The Putnam County Fair begins on Thursday August 3rd and continues through August 12th. For more information on the Putnam County Fair, visit the Fair website at www.putnamcountyfair.org.