Continuity of operations planning can help first responders and residents understand their roles during an emergency.

Florida town runs tabletop exercise to counter chemical disaster

During an emergency, whether it is a natural disaster or otherwise, it is essential that emergency responders and residents of a city understand what they must do to keep themselves and those around them safe. An updated continuity of operations plan can help all individuals prepare for numerous situations.

One Florida town recently underwent a drill to ensure that locals could calmly react in the case of "chemical chaos." Canopy Oaks Elementary School in Tallahassee hosted police, firefighters and medical technicians last Friday. The first responders helped evacuate 15 high school students who were also doused with fire hoses and then interviewed by authorities.

Lt. Mike Bellamy, a spokesman for the Tallahassee Fire Department, explained to the Florida Capital Bureau that the tabletop exercise was designed to prepare emergency officials for the possibility of a chemical attack. The news source added that the entire scenario was taped, and all organizations involved will review the tapes and see where improvements in their actions can be made.

Chris Rietow, who handles emergency planning for the Apalachee Regional Planning Council, helped coordinate the exercise.

"It allows agencies to test scenarios that they haven't done on a regular basis, and allows them to work with agencies they might not normally work with," he told the news source.

Fifteen-year-old James DiMarco participated in the exercise, and added that it gave him confidence in the first responders. In the future, he now knows what to expect and that authorities will be able to keep him safe, he said.

Cities that are unsure of how to prepare a continuity of operations plan can consult with business continuity consultants to create exercises that cater to their specific needs.