Students probably didn’t even notice them, unless they were curious about a group of people wearing yellow, blue and red vests on a recent morning at Western Nevada College.
Inconspicuously, Nevada’s Division of Emergency Management team was conducting a very important exercise to prepare for a natural or manmade disaster in Nevada.
WNC has a memorandum of understanding with the state to establish an Emergency Operation Center on campus if needed. As a backup plan, if Carson City suffers a catastrophic event, the DEM has an agreement to set up its emergency relocation site on WNC’s Fallon campus.
“We have the technology infrastructure to support the 40-50 people that were here for the drill,” said Craig Robinson, WNC’s safety and environmental coordinator. “We have a pool of state resources that can be called upon if needed, space for operations staff, space for executive staff, space for media and press relations, space to stage vehicles, for example.”
The DEM team’s task was to become fully functional at the new location as quickly as possible so it could provide remote assistance during and after the disaster. In the scenario created on this relocation day, DEM’s emergency response team brought their handheld radios, cellular phones and laptop computers to ensure that they would be able to communicate in a variety of ways from their new location.
DEM serves as Nevada’s coordinator of resources before, during and after declared and non-declared emergencies and disasters within the state. Nevada’s emergencies and disasters can be manmade acts of terrorism or natural-occurring ones such as fires, floods and earthquakes. DEM’s role is to ensure communities across the state have the capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from each. DEM has planned for these catastrophes for a decade.
“First responders on the ground know what they need a lot better than we’ll ever know. Our job is to find the resources they ask for and provide those to them,” Jim Walker, the DEM’s emergency management preparedness manager.
Walker said that planning and coordinating are key roles that the DEM fills in disaster situations.
While it is unlikely the DEM will be displaced from its facility, preparing for the worst-case scenario is important.
“It would take something pretty extreme before we would have to move in the first place,” Walker said. “But if we did have to move, we still plan for that anyways because that’s our job — extreme emergencies. We do have other locations around the state that we can go to, too.”
Robinson said it was beneficial for WNC to see how the state plans for such an emergency.
“Having Nevada simulate their COOP here on campus reinforces the importance of our own continuity of operations plan. In other words, how do we get back to our normal business after an incident that disrupts the campus?” he said.