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Flooding scenario was training exercise for agencies
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Yuma Area Office hosted a training exercise to prepare participants from several county, state and federal agencies to work together in the future if the Gila and Colorado rivers flood.
“I think exercising … really does prepare the folks to better understand the actions they are going to be taking, the impacts that could be there and what we can do to be prepared and respond to minimize those impacts,” said Jennifer McCloskey, USBR Yuma-area office manager.
USBR is responsible for managing the water flow along the Gila and Colorado rivers and is in charge of water delivery through Yuma's vast network of canals to the farmers in the area.
The exercise, patterned after the Homeland Security Department's Exercise and Evaluation Program, provided emergency management personnel with the means to train and practice their prevention, response and recovery capabilities in a realistic but risk-free environment.
Tuesday's theoretical training event pitted the participants against serious flooding that required the closure of roads, the evacuation of thousands of residents from flood zones and dispatching of heavy equipment to the levees to prevent them from collapsing.
“When an actual emergency comes, we need to be prepared,” said Ed Virden, USBR chief of operations and maintenance for the Colorado River in Yuma, and incident commander for the training event.
“An exercise such as the one today will help us understand the types of resources we have at our disposal for when Mother Nature brings surprises along the river.”
Learning how to communicate with other agencies participating in flood control response was a high priority during the exercise, Virden added.
“The communication between agencies is absolutely critical. All those interactions help us to be ready for actual river emergencies.”
USBR relies on other agencies to help coordinate resources in emergency situations, McCloskey said.
“Our exercise today is enabling us to understand the resources that the community has. We are very dependent on ... the relationships and good communication and coordination with the other agencies to make sure all the necessary actions would be implemented for the community.”
Gretchen Robinson, Yuma County emergency management director, said the exercise was an excellent way to prepare the participants to work together in the future.
“It is important for us to exercise together so that in the real event, we can work together seamlessly. We hope something like this never happens, but we do want to be ready, and this is making us ready.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.