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Training part of National Domestic Preparedness Consortium
Terrorism is a threat increasingly on the minds of the American public, and the staff of the Henry County (Ga.) Water & Sewerage Authority (HCWSA) continues to prepare for the possibility of such events occurring in the future.
Staff at the HCWSA invited other public works officials and government administrators to take part in a specialized training recently, titled “Public Works: Preparing for and responding to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism Incidents.”
Realizing the importance of collaborative efforts within county government departments and among neighboring jurisdictions, the authority asked managers from the Henry County Police Department, the Henry County Fire Department, as well as public works officials from surrounding counties to join them in the counter-terrorism training.
Nearly 30 public servants attended the intensive three-day training which included a review of crisis planning and case studies of past crises.
“Some people might wonder why public works officials need terrorism response training,” said Lindy Farmer, general manager of the HCWSA. “But what most people don’t realize is that in a terrorism incident, public works officials are usually on the scene before anyone else, often serving as first responders to a crisis.”
At the Oklahoma City Federal Building, a road crew was the first on the scene following the explosion there in 1995. In addition, following most incidents, departments of public works are called upon to lend support to police and fire with heavy equipment and technology.
The Texas Engineering Extension Service, in conjunction with the National Emergency Response & Rescue Training Center and the Office of Domestic Preparedness, conducted the terrorism and weapons of mass destruction training hosted by HCWSA. The Office of Domestic Preparedness is the Department of Homeland Security component responsible for enhancing the capabilities of state and local jurisdictions to prepare for and respond to incidents of domestic terrorism involving chemical and biological agents, as well as nuclear, radioactive and explosive devices.
Max Hill, director of security for the HCWSA, assisted by Ray Lindsay, safety coordinator for the authority, organized the event and extended invitations to their counterparts in public works and public safety, who work in nearby communities. Both Hill and Lindsay had traveled to Texas to take part in previous terrorism training conducted by the Texas Engineering Extension Service, and they vouched for the quality of the program. The training offered recently in Henry County, Ga., was free for participants, underwritten by federal grant dollars allocated through the Bioterrorism Act following 9/11.
“Public works officials are critically important to proper responses to terrorism, as evident in the past incidents of Oklahoma City, the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of 9/11, and virtually every other past incident in the country,” explained Hill. “We hope something of that nature never happens here, but we want to make sure we are prepared if it does.”
Farmer said that crisis planning, communication and public education will continue to be top priorities for HCWSA staff and related personnel.
“We must do all we can to do our part to protect the integrity of our facilities and to keep our customers away from harm that could result from a terrorist attack,” said Farmer. “Unfortunately, this is the world we live in today, and our success will be measured in the security and peace of mind we provide for the people of Henry County.”