Emergency management discussed by commission

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The Socorro County Commission heard about the successful tabletop exercise held in the County Annex on Tuesday from Fred Hollis, county emergency services administrator.

The tabletop was 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday, and agencies reviewed their plans and procedures for responding to an emergency — in this case, a hypothetical fire starting in the mountains near Magdalena. The exercise was well attended, with all relevant local law enforcement and fire agencies represented, as well as the county, the Red Cross, Socorro General Hospital and local ham radio operators.

During the county’s regular meeting, Hollis reported 49 people attended the tabletop. He said the participants did not run into issues they couldn’t overcome, but they did discover they need a policy for signing out cots and for the animal shelter trailers. He said his department is in the process of redoing the emergency evacuation plan anyway, so those policies can easily be added in.

Hollis said they had a really good, productive meeting.

Commission chairman and District 4 Commissioner Daniel Monette asked if the emergency services department was looking for volunteers with large animal pens whom they could call when disaster strikes to aid large animal evacuation.

Hollis said his department is in the process of buying materials to set up pens for large animals, and will have enough materials to set up 10 horse pens. He said they also have smaller cages for dogs and cats, “and all the buckets and poopy scoops.”

Monette said he has some room to accommodate evacuated horses if it is needed.

During an interview Wednesday, Hollis showed the county’s brand new emergency operations center, also located in the County Annex. The EOC has eight computer terminals and telephones, and two chairs at each desk, to accommodate all the emergency personnel who would need to direct emergency operations from there.

Hollis explained the terminals will be set up in an emergency for each department that needs to be there — city police, county sheriff, fire departments or others, depending on the nature of the emergency. He said the terminals can pull up any emergency plan in the system, which tells the operators step by step how to proceed during an emergency so a new person can conceivably function just as well in the EOC as an experienced person.

Hollis said all the terminals are connected to the county server so anybody can pull up anything they need from inside the EOC. Emergency personnel can just go to the EOC and don’t have to bring things with them.

Hollis said they are just finishing the EOC now; the final touch needed is the projector, which will be set up to display anything at any terminal that a person needs to show to the whole room. It will project a large image of the terminal view on a pull-down screen for all to see.

At the back of the room are glass doors separating it from another small area, the communications room. Hollis explained the communications room will be used for the EOC’s communications during an emergency and includes a full range of radio equipment — ham, UHF and VHF.