Training Tests State Agency's Response to Natural & Man-Made Disasters

The training conditions last week for a select group of emergency responders in Madison could be described as a train wreck. End of the road. Swamped. Lost and without direction. In other words, the perfect environment for disaster response training.

More than 75 local, state, volunteer and federal emergency responders tested emergency response and recovery plans to a multiple-event “emergency” during a four-day training exercise – the Integrated Emergency Management Course (IEMC) – held at the Department of Military Affairs Feb. 23-26.

Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducted the training to better prepare Wisconsin’s many state agencies to effectively manage a major disaster.

“It is critical that we plan, prepare, coordinate and exercise with our local, tribal, state and federal, and volunteer partners now before the disaster happens,” said Ed Wall, WEM administrator.

The first two days of the event were room-based and highlighted the many potential hazards Wisconsin faces each year. The training also focused on the role of the various agencies and what resources they may have during an emergency.

Agencies put their skills to the test during the third day of training when the Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated. The EOC is a centralized hub where leaders from various support agencies can better communicate and make informed decisions during a crisis.

The exercise scenario simulated major flooding in southwestern Wisconsin, much like the reallife floods that occurred across Wisconsin in 2007 and 2008. The exercise participants were also presented with a simulated multi-train collision, major road closures, and a group of lost hikers in the wilderness.

This training also benefited Wisconsin’s military assets as well. The Wisconsin National Guard’s Joint Operations Center (JOC) is staffed around the clock, but exercises like these allow plans and processes to be tested against likely scenarios. In the event military assistance is requested, the JOC acts as a focal point for the recall and activation of Wisconsin Guard Members.

The last day of the exercise tested the strategic recovery plans in response to the massive flooding scenario. Recovery efforts can be the most challenging after a disaster. This scenario tested participants’ ability to find long-term housing for displaced victims, coordinating volunteers and donations, conducting damage assessments, and finding and testing potable water.

It has been several years since the IEMC has been taught specifically for the state of Wisconsin. “We were pleased with our partners at FEMA that coordinated this training,” said Jerry Haberl, WEM training section supervisor. “Overall, it was an excellent opportunity to train and exercise together.”



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