Two-day emergency course prepares personnel for the real thing |

Two-day emergency course prepares personnel for the real thing

by Merrie Leininger

At 11 p.m., a 4.6 earthquake shakes the Carson Valley, causing buildings to collapse and fires to break out.

Douglas County officials spring into action, putting into effect the strategies they learned at this week’s training.

Communications director Dick Mirgon, who is in charge of all emergency management preparation for the county, said the two-day training for 30 Douglas County employees allowed them to practice for the real thing.

When the call came through that an earthquake had happened, he set others in motion, putting out fires, determining the number of injured and gathering resources.

“One exercise we do where people are assigned to the job they normally would do and in another, they are assigned a different job, so they can feel how it is to walk in someone else’s shoes,” Mirgon said.

He said the training is done every couple of years, and in between, individual departments do training on their own.

A miniature town set up on tables in the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office training room, complete with homes, businesses, factories and an airport, provided the location for the simulated earthquake and also for a simulated casino robbery.

DCSO officers, dispatchers, fire officials, airport employees and emergency management employees were all present.

Mirgon said employees will have a similar set-up at a training many Douglas County and South Lake Tahoe employees will do in June at the Emergency Management Institute in Maryland.

He said this week’s training was done now to familiarize the employees with the scenarios, and to prepare for real-life emergencies such as a riot at the South Lake Tahoe New Year’s Eve street party and Y2K shut-downs.

County Manager Dan Holler said the table-top training was more effective than classroom training.

“It familiarizes you with the command system,” he said. “It gives you a better feel for it.”

He said the group had done four hours of classroom training Wednesday.

East Fork Fire Chief Jim Reinhardt said the training helps everyone understand their jobs, and the jobs of others, in an emergency.

“It teaches teamwork and how everyone can work together in every situation. It’s not often all the agencies get together,” he said.