Originally created 09/21/03

Drill will test local agencies



What happens when the Medical College of Georgia and Fort Gordon get together with SWAT teams and emergency management agencies?

A weeklong disaster.

But it's only a drill.

Fort Gordon will hold Consequence Management 2003, an exercise in emergency coordination, communications, response and medical care, this week.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Tom Fitzpatrick, the director of Plans, Training and Mobilization at Fort Gordon.

"It's a monster pulling together, but a lot of people are doing it together," he said.

Some of the main participants are the post, Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, the Southeast Regional Medical Command and the Medical College of Georgia, Mr. Fitzpatrick said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also will be involved, Mr. Fitzpatrick said, but because of Hurricane Isabel's landfall last week, the contingent from FEMA will be smaller.

Also participating are other local agencies, including the Columbia County and Richmond County emergency management agencies and SWAT teams from local sheriff's offices.

One of the most dramatic parts of the exercise will give participants practice in dealing with weapons of mass destruction.

On Wednesday, the Army will conduct a response simulation of a chemical attack, Mr. Fitzpatrick said.

He said a separate exercise will measure how information would flow between emergency responders and officials in an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

MCG, which offers a Basic Disaster Life Support course that has been certified by the American Medical Association, will bring that class and others to emergency workers this week, said Chip Giddens, the administrative director for the Center of Operational Medicine at MCG.

"It runs the full spectrum," he said, "for all hazards, for people from EMTs to physicians."

MCG also will hold several lectures during the first part of the week on its campus about issues including agri-terrorism and responding to nuclear or radiological weapons, Mr. Giddens said.

Homeland Security Summit, a nonprofit organization, will sponsor vendors and speakers at the Gordon Club through Tuesday, Mr. Fitzpatrick said.

Although consequence management exercises have been held in areas other than Fort Gordon, Mr. Giddens said the post, where the first exercise took place in 1998, will always be the exercises' home.

"Augusta will always be a hub of activity, to interact and expand over the (Southeast)," he said.

"It will take on a different scope each year," Mr. Fitzpatrick said. "It shows that Fort Gordon is a viable player, can be a viable player and will be a viable player, no matter the scope."

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.