Alabama EMA conducts winter weather exercise

Published 11:15 am Thursday, November 16, 2017


Nov. 12 – 17 is Winter Weather Preparedness Week, and in preparation for potential hazardous weather conditions this winter season, Alabama Emergency Agency activated a seven-hour simulation exercise with state partners on Nov. 15 at the State of Emergency Operations Center in Clanton.

“We’re trying to come as close as we can to reality without it being real, prior to those events and the season in which they hit,” Alabama EMA Director Brian Hastings said.

“We have national weather service personnel here… So we are actually exercising with Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile and Tallahassee to make sure that we’re building a complete exercise picture of what this [weather event] is,” Hastings said.

Hastings said the simulation weather event, which was “forecasted” one day prior to the exercise, depicted movement from northwest through southeast Alabama, with “one to three, two to four, one to two, and less than one inch of snow and icy mix.”

“So we had actionable information for people to think through the actions that we would do today,” Hastings said.

Practice operations commenced around 8:30 a.m.

According to Alabama EMA, participating agencies included: Conservation and Natural Resources, Department of Corrections, Department of Transportation, State Forestry, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Alabama Fusion Center, Board of Pardons and Paroles, Alabama National Guard, Salvation Army, Department of Public Health, Agriculture and Industries, Department of Human Resources, American Red Cross and Governor’s Office of Volunteer Services.

“They all have a role in some form or fashion during a winter weather event, or even any disaster event actually,” Yasamie Richardson, Alabama EMA external affairs director, said.

Hastings said cultivating relationships with these agencies, particularly with new agency staff, ensures greater communication and, consequentially, smoother operations during management of weather situations.

Together, agencies test and “push” the system while building business protocols, relationships, and “good habits” to prepare for times of crisis, according to Hastings.

“You do it enough, and it becomes a habit,” Hastings said. “You don’t panic, you just know what to do.”

The winter weather exercise is one of two required annual weather exercises, the second of which simulates a hurricane forecast.

Hastings said this year’s hurricane exercise simulated a forecast equivalent to that of Hurricane Irma, which happened to make its landfall two weeks later.

“This was our opportunity,” Hastings said of the winter weather exercise, “to think through future scenarios and what we might do. You can never predict a future [scenario], but it rhymes, you get a sense of what could come and it gets you into the habit patterns of dealing with things as they come to you.”