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Storm response: Emergency workers stage mock disaster

Skies were clear and blue Friday morning, but personnel at Mizell Memorial Hospital and area emergency agencies were dealing with the aftermath of a tornado.

No, it wasn’t an anomaly, but a full-scale drill, organized and executed by the Covington County Emergency Management Agency as an exercise for Mizell personnel.

“The stage was set that a tornado had touched down at the Opp City Chamber of Commerce and there were several injuries and people missing,” EMA Assistant Director Frank Shaffer said. “As they do, our local emergency responders went into action, providing care to the pretend patients.”

EMA Director Susan Harris said the Covington County Voluntary Organizations Active In Disaster (VOAD) assisted with the drill, and posed as victims.

Shaffer said emergency response personnel treated the mock situation as the real thing.

“The patients were taken to a local hospital for assessment, diagnosis, treatment and release,” Shaffer said. “All agencies involved handled the situation with professionalism in an effective and efficient manner. We completed this drill at approximately 9:30 with all agencies returning to their regular shifts.”

Participating agencies included the Opp Chamber of Commerce, Mizell Memorial Hospital, the Covington County E911 Office, Opp Fire Department, Opp Police Department, Haynes EMS, and VOAD.

Harris said a larger-scale mock disaster is planned for the near future.

“We need to expand the practice to include search and rescue,” Harris said.

Harris and Shaffer remind area residents that most local severe weather occurs between March and May.

“This tornado was a drill, but, think to yourself what might happen in my location if this was the real thing and it happened to me,” Shaffer said. “Are you prepared? Do you have what it takes to survive for multiple days if disaster strikes? If you do not or you are not sure, contact your local EMA office for more information.”

The office is located in the county administration building. Officials can be reached by phoning 334.428.2670 or emailing ema@covcounty.com.