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Macon Ready: FEMA drill thrusts Macon-Bibb into twin tornado disaster

Emmitsburg, Md. -- Imagine what it would feel like to have two tornadoes hit Bibb County in less that 24 hours.

A helicopter crashes into the Emergency Center of Medical Center, Navicent Health, as the top floor of Alexander II Magnet School is destroyed.

All three hospitals are forced to divert patients and four railcars are burning in the Ocmulgee River.

The interstates are shut down.

At the Macon Coliseum, 700 show dogs and handlers are forced to shelter in place as more reports are coming in of roof collapses in downtown Macon.

All the while, call-takers in the Emergency Operations Center are fielding calls from upset people demanding information and continuing to hound operators.

Reporters posing as officials try to elicit information from those manning the phones.

During live news conferences in a mock studio at the Emergency Management Institute, the mayor, EMA director and school safety and risk director are bombarded with tough questions.

In a press briefing, public information officers are grilled by national media outlets about the effectiveness of the response.

“If you don’t find yourself getting nervous, then you’re not taking it seriously,” said Capt. Ferrell Cromer of the Macon-Bibb Fire Dept.

Cromer and some of the other 60 representatives from Macon-Bibb County had initially questioned the necessity of holding a drill all the way in Maryland.

After spending some time in the simulated Emergency Operations Center, he recognizes its value.

“This is an opportunity to ‘play’ like we never would have been able to do in Macon,” he said.

The exercise heightens on Thursday and concludes with an evaluation of the disaster operation and recovery.

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