Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

January 25, 2014

NSU participates in FEMA tornado tabletop exercise

TAHLEQUAH — On Thursday, Jan. 23, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) personnel from Northeastern State University, the City of Tahlequah, and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, participated in a FEMA-run virtual tabletop exercise.

The four-hour exercise, held on the Tahlequah campus, was one of 13 sessions in 12 states. The Federal Correction Institution was the only other Oklahoma site for the training and NSU was the only higher education site involved.

Throughout the remainder of the year, FEMA will conduct approximately 10 different tabletop exercises covering multiple scenarios, ranging from a shooting situation to natural disasters. Jason Junkens, NSU Emergency Manager, is considering another training opportunity in May or June.

According to FEMA’s website, the exercises are “designed to help an organization test a hypothetical situation, such as a natural or man-made disaster, and evaluate the group’s ability to cooperate and work together, as well as test their readiness to respond.” The implementation of the program has been in effect since 2010, with each exercise tailored to the specific region/location of a possible incident.

Junkens explained that the benefits to such an exercise were immense for NSU.

“Typically a tabletop exercise can take anywhere from six to eight weeks to prepare and coordinate. FEMA has significantly reduced this time by developing and providing the products for the exercise,” said Junkens. “All that we have to do is adjust them a little to meet our situation. For many Emergency Managers that are one-person departments like myself, it can be a challenge when you have to split your time between writing plans, training personnel, and developing exercises. With this, we have the opportunity to test our Emergency Operations Plan to identify any areas for improvement.”

Providing the opportunity to conduct more exercises in a shorter period of time, to test multiple levels of NSU’s emergency plans, and to command staff and resources, is ideal in the attempt to reach the ultimate goal of making NSU a much safer and more resilient institution of high education.

According to Junkens, the exercise that took place on Jan. 23 was valuable on various levels.

“I believe the exercise provided us with an excellent opportunity to engage members of our Emergency Operations Center in discussions about our preparedness,” said Junkens. “We were able to bring members of the EOC, the local city or county Emergency Manager, and other stakeholders together and discuss issues and resolutions. This allowed us to tap into a diverse knowledge base and increase our proficiency at handling incidents in the future.”

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