BISMARCK, N.D. – Representatives from more than 50 local, state and federal agencies today concluded a 3-day disaster response exercise sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (NDDES) at the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) on Fraine Barracks in Bismarck. The exercise scenario, which included a hazardous chemical spill, was designed to test participants’ ability to collaborate with their counterparts in a multi-jurisdictional environment.
“This exercise allows us to continue reinventing government by fully integrating our emergency planning and response efforts,” said Cody Schulz, director of North Dakota Homeland Security. “The worst time for us to be getting to know one another is during an emergency. Having more interaction and sharing ideas before a disaster happens allows us to more effectively respond as a team and bolsters our preparedness.”
Elected officials and local and state leaders began their week at the State Capitol engaging in inter-agency discussion to clarify roles and responsibilities during a disaster response and recovery. During the exercise, attendees were tasked with responding to a hazardous chemical spill in the Missouri River. The location of the incident created a scenario where agencies would have to identify potential issues and actions needed to resolve those issues while collaborating across four jurisdictions: Burleigh and Morton Counties and the Cities of Bismarck and Mandan.
“We conduct these exercises in ‘real time,’ in that we have exercise facilitators working in our ‘Simulation Cell’ to deliver injects or pose problems, questions and scenarios for our exercise participants to navigate,” said Larry Regorrah, training and exercise specialist for DES. “This gives us a chance to look at our processes as a team and see how effective our response is or to identify areas in which we might need improvement.”
Some of the capabilities on which attendees were tested included response planning, operational coordination, environmental response, health and safety, public information and warning, economic recovery, infrastructure systems and natural and cultural resources.
In addition to NDDES, this week’s exercise included city and county officials and representatives from North Dakota’s State Water Commission, Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Health, Department of Human Services, Highway Patrol, Department of Agriculture, Game and Fish, National Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Navy and National Weather Service.