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An exercise in disaster prepping

Preparedness — Yamhill County Emergency Management organizes 'Thor's Revenge' as a practice scenario with multiple large fires


Once a year, Yamhill County Emergency Management organizes a county-wide disaster exercise. This year, “Thor’s Revenge” took place May 14 and focused on responding to urban and wildland fires.

“Because we have so much timber and wildland and farms throughout the county, there’s the possibility of having a single fire or multiple fires,” said Sue Lamb, emergency manager.

Thor’s Revenge stemmed from multiple lightning strike fires and had three parts.

“Providence Newberg Medical Center was doing an exercise dealing with patients coming in with air quality or respiratory issues, then over in the city of Yamhill, where some of the fires in the scenario were threatening water supply, Yamhill set up an emergency operations center,” she said.

In McMinnville, they set up an active city operations center, where emergency response members worked to coordinate the response.

“It went really well,” Lamb said, although that may not be for a lack of preparation. She said these annual exercises take months to organize and involves multiple facets.

“We have a ‘sim cell,’ which is a group of people with cell phones who feed script into the exercise,” she said. “They said this has happened to a person, or this is happening to a building, they pretend they’re with the agency or the person if it’s a public call.”

The exercise also involved the National Weather Service.

“We literally had the weather service write us what we call fire weather, they actually wrote us a fire weather description,” Lamb said. That description included high winds, high heat and dry conditions, and was sent out in emails to participants the day before, setting the scene for the following day.

“But we tag everything with ‘exercise’ so there is no confusion,” she said. “It’s very worthwhile to give people an opportunity to actually do hands-on what they’ve been trained in a classroom to do and to work with people they may not normally get to work with.”

Along with the local agencies, she said a large aspect was the amateur radio service.

“We had every city in the county, they did what’s called a net testing to make sure they could get amateur radio communications,” she said. “We really appreciate their time to come out and do that. During any kind of emergency or disaster having that backup communication, amateur radio is going to be kind of our lifeline.”

As for the name, Thor’s Revenge, Lamb said they like to get a little creative with the project names.

“So much of what we do in the government is pretty scripted and kind of bland,” she said. “We do like to put fun names on things to have a bit of a creative sense.”

The next full scale response exercise will be sometime in February. For more information, visit www.co.yamhill.or.us/emergency-management.




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