Local and state first responders participated in a multi-agency Granite Basin drill this past week that simulated a 30-acre wildfire in Walker, allowing firefighters, police units, and dozens of volunteers to prepare for a major incident within the safety of a mock disaster.
"These type of drills are great for us to take part in," said Rob Zazueta, who along with fellow Chino Valley firefighters Ben Roche and Battalion Chief Mat Mayhall, participated in the Friday's drill. "One of the biggest things we get out of these operations is the inter-agency cooperation. Learning what abilities and resources we have at our disposal in the event of a real emergency is crucial to us providing the best service possible."
The scenario for the daylong drill began with a wildfire sparked by children playing with fireworks that resulted in the evacuation of many Lynx Lake area homes.
The drill provided the new Northern Arizona Type III incident management team several tests to deal with, including participants acting as lost children, unruly campers, and members of the media requesting access to and information on the disaster.
Along with the Lynx Lake site, the drill included an emergency control center at the Prescott City Hall on Cortez Street and a mock Red Cross evacuation center at Yavapai College on Sheldon Street.
"These drills help us establish the lines of communication and strengthen our process. That way, when we get a real emergency, everyone is on the same page," said Brian Gomez, communications specialist for the American Red Cross, Grand Canyon Chapter, who was supervising the activity at the Yavapai College site.
Gomez said the Red Cross encourages people to be prepared before a disaster strikes and one of the best ways to do so is with a "Go Bag."
"Right now is when that should be done," said Gomez. "Get a duffel bag or knap sack together and make sure each family member knows where their bag is and that it's easy to grab in an emergency."
Gomez said each Go Bag should include between 48 and 72 hours of supplies, including bottled water, prescription medication, a flashlight, radio, batteries, and non-perishable foods.
Volunteers from Animal Disaster Services (ADS) were also at the Yavapai College site, providing information on pet safety in an emergency.
"People often think about preparing themselves and their families in an emergency, but sometimes forget about their pets," said ADS volunteer Becky Salazar. "In an emergency we set up as close to the Red Cross as possible, because some people won't come to a shelter if they can't bring their pets, and the Red Cross won't allow pets in the shelters."
Salazar said the ADS is prepared to house pets 24 hours a day until an evacuation order is lifted, but preparation by pet owners is important. "Animals may be on a special diet or in need of special medication, so it's important to have a Go Bag for your pets as well."
The ADS is staffed by volunteers and supplied by donations. The public can visit www.unitedanimalfriends.org for information on donation opportunities.
Visit www.redcross.org for additional information on how to prepare for a disaster.