The Hill County government is offering a limited number of seats for people to watch what would happen if county operations had to be moved due to an emergency.
Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Parenteau said this morning that the exercise will start at 8 a. m. Wednesday, March 21, at the Hill County Detention Center and he plans to have some seats available for the public.
“They would only be able to watch, ” he added. “They could not participate except during the briefings. ”
Parenteau said the exercise is the second phase in a three-part training series in the DES region that includes Hill County. The thrust of the drill, expected to last from 8 a. m. to 5 p. m., is how to move operations from the Hill County Courthouse to a new location in case the courthouse had to be evacuated due to an emergency.
People coming to watch the drill will have to register and will be given a name badge they have to wear, the same as the participating officials.
The exercise is specific to county government, Parenteau said, although officials from the cities of Havre and Hingham, the incorporated towns in the county that have signed onto the county disaster planning, are invited to come and view the drill.
The purpose of the drill is to simulate a disaster in the county impacting the courthouse. The county government will activate the emergency coordination center and begin the process of working with county department heads to relocate them to another area.
Parenteau said the relocation of the different departments will be prioritized and scheduled, with the heads of each department contacted in turn. The department heads will then plan the relocation with the county commissioners and other county officials running the coordination center, including what supplies the department will need to operate.
Parenteau said some offices would be lower priority, including possibly locating some services in other counties, such as transferring an office’s operations to Blaine County, until the courthouse could be reopened.
Briefings will be held throughout the day, with breaks to discuss the progress planned at different times and a final briefing set at the end of the exercise.
Parenteau said the first phase of the process, held last year in Hill County and in the previous year in some of the counties in the DES region, was to prepare for this phase. That included the departments considering who were their key personnel, what they needed to do their jobs, and what would have to happen to re-establish their office operations in as short a time as possible.
The exercises are a requirement of the federal emergency agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Part of the presidential disaster declaration process requires that entities be prepared to relocate operations as necessary, Parenteau said.
“Over and over again we have seen, in places like New Orleans with (Hurricane) Katrina, Joplin (Missouri) with tornadoes, areas of flooding, the biggest thing that needs to happen is local government needs to re-establish operations, ” he said.