Inside the Columbia County Emergency Operations Center, Korean emergency medicine physician Sang Do Shin asked who was in charge, which brought a smile to the face of Pam Tucker, director of the Emergency and Operations Division.
“I’m the commander,” she said.
Shin was part of a delegation from the Ministry of Health & Welfare of South Korea that toured Augusta facilities Monday to study disaster preparedness at the local level. The group is meeting with Georgia state officials today and then will go to Washington, D.C., to meet with officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Soo Hyun, director of the Office of Health Policy for the ministry. South Korea lacks the county level emergency operations centers like the one in Columbia County and elsewhere, she said.
“That’s impressive,” Hyun said. “We have so many things to learn.”
The National Disaster Life Support Foundation, which grew out of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Georgia Regents University, has five training sites in Korea and has been working with officials there to provide training, said Dr. Phillip L. Coule, chairman of the foundation and vice chair of business development in Emergency Medicine. Shin serves as regional training center director at Seoul National University Hospital.
The Augusta-based foundation is working with them to develop more training to respond to potential nuclear or radiological problems, Coule said. That is a priority for a country that is fifth in the number of nuclear power plants, Shin said. And while there are preparations for a potential threat from their neighbors to the north, Americans are probably more concerned about that than the Korean people, Shin said.
“Usually, they announce that (threat) to the United States and not South Korea,” he said.