Smith County Officials Participate in Regional Emergency Drill

scEast Texas Officials participated in a regional emergency drill this week.

The Texas Department of Transportation conducted the three-day Regional Communications Exercise, with the first day taking place in Mount Pleasant and the second with emergency officials set up in mobile command units all over the region. On Friday, the emergency management officials will again meet in Mount Pleasant to discuss their strengths and weaknesses and what they need to improve on after the drill, Smith County Fire Marshal Connie McCoy-Wasson said.

The “full-scale drill” focused on operational communications, ensuring timely communications between the State Operating Center, Emergency Operating Centers and affected communities in the impact area and response forces.

“This is the first time we’ve had this many agencies involved,” Mrs. McCoy-Wasson said. “It’s been great.”

The Smith County Mobile Command Center was used in the exercise. The Fire Marshal’s Office, Emergency Services District No. 2 officials, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran, Smith County Public Information Officer Casey Murphy and Verizon representatives participated in the Smith County unit.

They tested radio communications interoperability to see how far emergency radios could reach during a widespread ice event where some radio trunks were down, with no electricity and no cell phones.

The city of Odessa was set up in Bullard and was able to radio officials in Mount Pleasant, in Titus County. Athens was able to communicate with Rusk County and Titus County to Longview.

Larry Locke, director of information technology for ESD 2, said in such an emergency, the individual command centers would be able to communicate with each other and share resources, as well as what is going on in their communities.

Locke said during the drill on Wednesday, each organization showed their trailers and shared ideas. He said the Smith County Mobile Command Center is one of the best, and can do everything anyone else can do, expect talk to the Space Station.

The Smith County Mobile Command Center has three different types of radio systems, as well as aviation and HAM radios, two cell phone networks, phones and TV. Locke said they have the capability of patching together two types of radios so that they can communicate with each other.

The Smith County Mobile Command Center was purchased with more than $41,000 in donations given during the 2011 wildfire season, as well as from donations by ETMC EMS, Smith County Volunteer Fireman’s Association and the Smith County 911 Communications District.

ESD 2 Chief of Operations, Terry Rozell, designed and built the communication system inside the trailer.

Set up at 13 locations, entities that participated include the Texas Department of Public Safety, Smith, Rusk, Henderson, Marion, Van Zandt, Wood, Rockwall and Denton counties; fire departments from Longview, Tyler, Atlanta, and Mount Pleasant, Avinger and Hughes Springs; police departments from Texarkana, Reno and Odessa; as well as other first responder organizations from around the region.

An airplane flown by Civil Air Patrol was also in the air with a repeater to help the entities connect farther, as well as a radio to transmit.

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