Local News

October 15, 2012

Whitfield emergency workers take part in state communications exercise

Six emergency workers from Whitfield County were part of a mobile communications exercise sponsored by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency at Lake Blackshear recently.

Since agencies around the state use radios on different frequencies, GEMA coordinator Nick Brown says the goal is to make sure that when multiple agencies come together in a disaster, operations will go off without a hitch.

Whitfield County EMA Director Claude Craig says his crew is doing its part to help.

“We were able to complete all the tasks given to us during the exercise,” Craig said, “and we had no equipment issues, no equipment failures. Everything went real good.”

Such preparation is important because during a disaster, chaos usually reigns. Not being able to communicate with other emergency officials would just make things that much worse, Craig said.

“Let’s just say we have another major event like the tornadoes in Catoosa County last year,” he said. “Catoosa County operates on an 800mhz system, and Whitfield County is on a VHF radio system. We need to have everybody on the same channel and operating on the same page. We have to have interoperability between all the agencies in the state to be able to make it work with different systems. Therefore we could take a VHF radio and patch it into an 800 system, and we’re all on the same channel.”

Thanks to last month’s exercise, Whitfield County knows that it can accomplish that mission.

“If we had to load up and take our mobile communications vehicle to another part of the state,” Craig said, “when we got there, they would give us a radio frequency to go to, and we’d be able to go to that frequency and patch it in to our system and make it work. That’s what the whole exercise was all about.”

Taking part in the exercise from Whitfield County were members of the special operations communications team, including 911 Deputy Director Jeff Ownby and 911 shift trainers Brittany Pierce and Jantzen Chance.

“Communications is a big part of any kind of disaster operation,” Craig said, “and from down there at Lake Blackshear we were able to talk through the Georgia Interoperability network’s motobridge system to our 911 Center in Whitfield County, just like we were sitting there.”

Two other Whitfield County 911 workers — Carla Kelley and Amy Cooley — took part in the exercise in a role as evaluators to make sure participants completed the tasks correctly.

Brown says that since the 9/11 attacks, communications has been on the forefront for  emergency management workers. He said that the exercises help emergency officials build relationships so they know who they might end up working with if agencies have to come together in a large-scale emergency.

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