Dougherty first responders work on joint response - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Dougherty first responders work on joint response

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June 14, 2007

Albany -- Past tragedies are inspiring Dougherty County leaders to prepare for the worst, if it were to happen here.  Community leaders met again Thursday, laying out preparations for a massive criminal or natural disaster requiring all emergency and law enforcement involvement.     

Dougherty County First Responders went over many disaster scenarios, including an armed attack on Phoebe Putney Hospital. Phoebe Director of Security Edwin Willis said "it could happen anywhere. If it could happen at Virginia Tech, it could happen at Albany, Georgia."

33 people died at Virginia Tech University, when a lone gunman started a massive shooting slaughter. That inspired Albany State University Police Chief Roberson Brown to challenge all law enforcement and first responders in Dougherty County to organize, to better prepare in case of a similar emergency.

Willis said "I have more than 3,500 people at Phoebe. So we are just like a big campus also. And my staff is unarmed, so anything I can get from outside agencies to help me out is wonderful."

This was the second meeting of first responders, and Chief Brown says progress has been made.  "I think a lot of walls have come down, a lot of bridges have been built between different agencies, to learn from other mistakes. And if something happens, we are more prepared now."

Dougherty County Sheriff's Office trainers have put together an exercise they call active shooter training for all law enforcement. Dougherty County Sheriff's Sgt. Allen Brock said "We want to get everybody on the same sheet of music, so that when an incident occurs, there is a seamless response."

This is not just about criminal acts, but natural disasters, something Albany's experience helps with.  Dougherty County Emergency Management Deputy Director Jim Vaught said "Actually Albany is a lot ahead of the curve compared to other communities. It takes unfortunately a major incident like the floods of 1994 and 1998 and some of the other events like tornadoes."

Albany first responders have helped with tornado response in Sumter County and the wildfires in Ware County already this year, and leaders say that experience will help when an emergency hits in Dougherty County.

Dougherty County first responders started plans for a community wide test, calling on all first responders to help in a major disaster.

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