First responders, EMA directors sharpen skills at training seminar

Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 5:02 PM CST
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TUSCLAOOSA COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - The adage says ‘practice makes perfect’ and that was the underlying theme behind a two-day Emergency Operations Center course at the Tuscaloosa County EMA.

The seminar consists of nearly 40 people taking part in the event and these are the folks who are often on the front lines during a disaster. The class is a mix of first responders and EMA personnel with 40% from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“This class is definitely important,” said Shelby County EMA Director Michael Asdel.

“It actually teaches how to run an emergency operations center and better prepare for a disaster, not only during the disaster, but the aftermath of the disaster for recovery purposes,” said Asdel.

West Alabama alone has given EMA directors and first responders alike a crash course of how critical those preparations are. For example, Hale County saw 3 tornadoes in 2022 and 3 twisters in January this year alone. One tornado carved out a 24 mile trek.

“That is very good for the citizens of this county,” said Tuscaloosa County EMA Director Nick Lolley.

Lolley says while there is a lot of experience in the room dealing with disasters, you can never go wrong with staying on top of things, exchanging ideas and deepening relationships…all in the name of cooperation when disaster strikes.

“What we’re learning is emergencies don’t always happen in your county. You’re going to have to help other counties. We just saw that with tornadoes in Dallas County, Autauga County and Sumter County. For example, here in Tuscaloosa County we went to Hale County and helped out a lot,” said Lolley.

The exercise part of the class will take place on Wednesday, but no one knows for now what that exercise will look like or the circumstances. For now, staying abreast of the latest FEMA policy change is just as critical as getting boots on the ground early when the weather turns angry and destructive.

“It’s not just your weather event and it’s over,” Lolley said.

And no one knows that any better than EMA directors like Michael Asdel.

“It’s very important to get the community stabilized again,” said Asdel.

Nick Lolley says as a group, they try to train about 4 or 5 times a year. With this class, they have first responders from as far away as Baldwin County.

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