Federal funding provides emergency training for 96 employees | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Federal funding provides emergency training for 96 employees

It’s a clear, balmy August morning at South Shore and nearly 50,000 people are expected for the Millennial Car Show.

As early as 10 a.m., the closed-off section of U.S. Highway 50 – stretching from Park Avenue through the casino corridor – is densely packed with people milling around the nearly 150 vendor booths.

That’s when disaster strikes.

A massive fire breaks out in Christmas Valley, requiring all fire units to be dispatched to the area. Simultaneously, a bomb detonates at Horizon Casino Resort, causing the sort of carnage and destruction only seen in disaster movies.

It is a situation that requires rapid and sustained action, organization and cooperation.

Although this is a fictional, worst-case scenario, it remains a very real possibility and both Douglas and El Dorado counties, and the city of South Lake Tahoe, must be prepared to deal with it. That’s where the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, comes into the picture.

South Shore was selected for federally funded, bi-state disaster training and 96 local government employees from various management levels and departments attended the course in Emmitsburg, Md.

“This was the first time FEMA selected a bi-state jurisdiction for the training,” said Brad Bennett, safety services director. “They came out here beforehand and set it all up so it was very realistic.”

The city of South Lake Tahoe practices emergency training on a regular basis, said City Manager Kerry Miller, but the two counties and the city have never trained for disaster situations together.

“The real benefit was that everyone was able to work together and drop the county line differences,” Bennett said. “It really helped us look at things we had never thought of before.”

Participants were forced to deal with the utter breakdown of all organized systems. They practiced communicating with media, organizing evacuation, dealing with shortages of essentials like food, fuel, water and power, and preventing the spread of misinformation and panic.

“Their goal was to exhaust us of our resources and then see what we could come up with,” said Teri Jamin, public services director.

Participants will meet on an annual basis, Bennett said, to refresh and update disaster response procedures.

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