On Oct. 9, the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) took part in a series of drills in Alamo involving the schools and community. The schools participated in drills for school bus evacuation, fire, shelter in place, earthquake, lockdown, school evacuation, and parent reunification. After the students were dismissed for the half-day, staff went on to participate in an active assailant drill and a hot wash discussion and drill.
Representatives from all over Lincoln County met at the ambulance barn in Alamo including Bud Marshall with the Nevada Division of Emergency Management. The LEPC committee was also there including Rick Stever as the Lincoln County Emergency Manager and Fire Chief; Elaine Zimmerman, the Lincoln County Grant Administrator; and Louise Buettner, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department. Other representatives were from the Nevada Highway Patrol; Pioche Fire; Panaca Fire; Pahranagat Valley Fire; Pahranagat Valley EMT; Alamo Power; and Alamo Sewer and Water.
Before splitting into groups, Rick Higbee discussed how important a unified command is in emergencies. A unified command is when different agencies come together under on Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Everyone brings their own expertise and they handle their own jurisdiction and responsibilities with them, but there is a chain of command to follow. When the group can’t come to a consensus, the Incident Commander (IC) makes the call in a unified command.
Following Higbee’s discussion, those attending broke off into three groups. One group went into the ambulance barn bays to go over the hazmat trailers and equipment with Lonny Walch. Another group stayed with Stever from Lincoln County Fire and went over information about the Emergency Operations Center.
Stever went over the format of an EOC which involves and Incident Command System (ICS) which is a standard, on-scene, all-threats and hazards incident management concept. ICS helps ensure the safety of responders and others, helps achieve tactical objectives, and allows for efficient use of resources. In an ICS, the Incident Commander is over three officers that become his command staff. The Public Information Officer is there to communicate information to the press and public. This is who people should talk to for information. The Liaison Officer combines the entities and serves as a soundboard before seeing the IC. The Safety Officer ensures safety for all involved.
Roberta Hess, the Pahranagat Valley Emergency Management Chairperson, commented on how the school drills went, expressing, “The evacuation of the schools went very smooth and was very well done. Rural communities have open campuses, which we value, but the schools have to make sure they are always careful, which they do. Even with an open campus, the lockdown drill was very fast and impressive.”
Several parents at the parent reunification part of the evacuation had positive things to say about the drills. Teralee Morley from Alamo commented, “Everything went very smoothly and the process of picking up my kids was good. I feel I know what is expected of me as a parent in an emergency.”
Lisa Poulsen from Alamo added, “I think they are doing a good job. It’s good to be informed. These drills are good practice so the parents and the kids know what to do.”
Emilee Frehner from Alamo expressed, “The reunification went very smooth. Kids were all together in one room and the parents lined up to sign their kids out.”
Steve Pearce from Hiko stated, “I thought everything went really well. I was really happy with the security protocols. I am also very happy overall that they do these drills and practice runs. I hope they are never necessary for real-life events, but if they are, I’m confident in the protocols and procedures that have been established to maintain both safety and security.”
When talking to Mike Sparrow, the School Safety Coordinator for the Pahranagat Valley Schools, he said, “I spent a lot of time organizing the day and keeping things on schedule. It was nice and clean and clear and everyone did their job and contributed. Everyone commented about how they learned quite a bit in the afternoon. I think it was worth the time for the kids and staff spent out of the classroom.”