Macon-Bibb delegation selected for FEMA training this summer

In the heat of the summer, Macon-Bibb County leaders will train to keep their cool and be more effective during disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has selected the local Emergency Management Agency for an Integrated Emergency Management Course that will take place over four and a half days in mid-July.

EMA Director Don Druitt said only 10 counties are chosen for the intense training for between 55 and 75 local leaders, first responders, emergency volunteers and others integral in disaster recovery.

“We’re pretty excited,” said Druitt, who used federal and state disaster grants over the past five years to upgrade technology in the Emergency Operations Center in the bunker at the Macon-Bibb County Government Center.

The county had to submit a detailed accounting of its operation and historic disasters, such as the Flood of ‘94 and the Mother’s Day Tornado in 2008.

“We’re one of 10 fortunate communities chosen based on our preparation and ability to go to the next level,” Druitt said.

FEMA will fund tuition, lodging and travel expenses to the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

The county will be responsible for paying for meals for the delegation, which must represent the upper echelon of government, public safety departments, health workers and aid organizations.

Since 1982, FEMA has been conducting similar drills for agencies across the country.

Druitt said it has been invaluable for communities like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that suffered a catastrophic tornado within two years of the training.

“The Tuscaloosa mayor and others sent praise about this saying this is something you can’t get anywhere else,” Druitt said.

Over the past two years, Macon-Bibb’s EMA deputy director has been compiling material for the application which was approved last year.

In late April, a FEMA representative traveled to Macon to begin planning an exercise tailored to the community that will involve entities that would be called upon in a catastrophe.

Role playing scenarios will immerse participants in the height of a crisis and its aftermath.

“FEMA hires staff to come in to pretend to be someone from Norfolk Southern or pretend to be from the gas company,” said Spencer Hawkins, deputy director for the Macon-Bibb EMA.

Hawkins, who began working for Macon-Bibb a few months ago, has participated in several of the exercises at the FEMA training campus at Emmitsburg, Maryland.

He rode through the county with the FEMA representative, scoured maps and examined the community’s critical infrastructure.

From now until July, Hawkins will assist FEMA in building a credible Macon-specific disaster that will unfold during the course of training.

“They’ve created an exercise with Spencer that will be pretty intense,” Druitt said.

Hawkins said: “It really stretches people and shows what needs to be done and what can be done.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.