Severe Weather Exercise Prepares Responders For Major Disaster - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather and Events

Severe Weather Exercise Prepares Responders For Major Disaster

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ERIE COUNTY- There is no telling when Mother Nature strikes and truth is, severe weather can happen anywhere, at any given moment-- no forgiveness.

"In a natural disaster, things are always chaotic," City of Erie Assistant Fire Chief Joe Walko says.

When a weather disaster happens, communication is always key. It is Dale Robinson's motto as the Emergency Coordinator for the Erie County Department of Public Safety.

"We really need to make sure that we're exercising our staff to give them that taste of real world," Robinson says.

Volunteers got a little taste Wednesday evening as the Erie County Emergency Operations Center held its annual severe weather exercise.

This year's theme is "How to Communicate Effectively." Crews learned all about it as a real life severe thunderstorm pummeled through the Erie area just as the exercise began.

"There’s a real world flood warning and tornado watches and warnings, right to our west so it gives a little flavor to the exercise," Robinson says.

Participants were given intense scenarios like tornado touchdowns and building collapses as if it happened.

For Assistant Fire Chief, Joe Walko, being prepared is what it comes down to.

"To be prepared is the main thing, to have everyone on the same page, to be able to communicate with all the resources throughout the county is a big thing," Walko says.

Participants say the exercise is stressful, fast-paced, enough to get your adrenaline pumping--but it's also a rewarding experience, one that could save lives.

As data messenger Mary King took information and relayed it to the big white board, her sense of helping others could weather any storm.

"It’s rewarding in that respect--knowing that I can do something for them,” King says. “You've got to work as a team; you've got to work with one another.”

"We learned our lesson during 9/11 when fire, police and EMS couldn't speak to each other,” Walko adds. “We're trying to learn through that and grow."
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