Officials review mock disaster from Fall 2007

Channing Hindel

The Portage County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management held a meeting yesterday in the Student Center to discuss last September’s mock disaster at Kent State.

The exercise involved 44 agencies and more than 300 responders to a simulated terrorist bombing and release of chemical agent in a public area to evaluate the response time of emergency services in Portage County.

John Mason, assistant director for the Portage County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, presented the After Action Report/Improvement Plan to members of city and county agencies.

Overall, the report seemed to be positive, but Mason didn’t see it as a test.

“This was a chance for us to see where we need to make improvements,” he said.

According to the report, one of the areas in need of improvement was in communication between the different agencies. It called for an interoperable communications plan in the event of a disaster.

In response to the recommendation, Tom Brizzola of the FBI provided a copy of Cuyahoga County’s Tactical Communications Plan to Mason, who jokingly said they would plagiarize.

A notable absence among the agencies was the Portage County Bomb Squad. It was previously engaged and unable to participate in the exercise.

The report contained an analysis of the 10 objective areas and the capabilities of the response teams for the exercise. Although there were communication issues, DuWayne Porter, Portage County Health Commissioner, thought the exercise showed the strengths of each of the agencies involved.

“These things are extremely important to us,” Porter said. “This was good to find out what everyone brought to the table.”

An analysis of the area hospitals showed they were capable of handling victims of a terrorist incident. The only area in which the represented agencies fell short of their objectives was in emergency medical services.

Jim Williams, Kent City Fire Chief attributed this to the fact that there were a few people in supervisory positions who were not used to being in those roles.

“When you’re not doing these things all the time, it’s easy to forget a few things here and there,” Williams said. “It was a good experience for us and shows us where we can improve.”

The exercise was part of FEMA’s National Planning Scenarios and the exercises are conducted throughout Ohio’s 88 counties every few years.

Contact public affairs reporter Channing Hindel at [email protected].

VIEW the report and the corrective action plan.