In the Western part of the state local, county, and state officials all want to make sure they are prepared when the next winter storm hits.
On Wednesday morning thirteen counties and the three affiliated tribes in the Western part of the state got hit by “Winter Storm Hercules” ,fortunately was just an exercise.
” There was no power. . . there was no communication at all, so essentially we are dead in the water. This is important because its not if it happens its when it happens, ” said Denise Brew, Dunn County Emergency Manager.
Sherry Adams who organized the event for Southwestern District Health Unit in Dickinson said the scenario was a three day ice storm followed by a severe blizzard which takes out the power grid.
“We are planning to figure out how medical facilities,as well as, emergency services can communicate during such a storm, ” said Adams.
During the exercise Brew and her emergency operations staff were thrown the ultimate worst case scenario.
“No cell phones were working. . . no land lines were working which takes out the internet and the wifi”.
And Jesse Handegard, a North Dakota guard member, who assisted Adams and her staff during the exercise, said when cell phones or land lines don’t work a good way to communicate is with a two- way or HAM radio.
“Amateur radio all it does is use the different layers of the atmosphere to bounce signals on and off, and they can go for very long distances.
He also said cell phones can be be unreliable during a power outage, because cell towers can also lose power or crash due to high call volumes during emergency situations.
However, not all medical or emergency facilities are equipped with HAM Operators.
Tucker Williams, a maintenance supervisor at Hill Top Home of Comfort in Killdeer, participated in the exercise, and said sometimes someone has to go out in the cold when you can’t communicate.
“Runners were discussed. . . someone to physically go and deliver a message”.
At the end a lot was learned about what facilities need when a worst case scenario hits.
More than 100 people participated in “Winter Storm Hercules” event on Wednesday.
The thirteen counties that participated were: Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Slope, Golden Valley, Stark, Hettinger, Ward Renville, Williams, Mountrail, McKenzie, and Three Affiliated Tribes.