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Hernando officials test hurricane preparedness with annual drill

BROOKSVILLE — Hurricane Suiter, a Category 2 storm, blew into Hernando County on Wednesday.

If you didn't notice it, don't be alarmed. It was all just a drill.

Officials at the Hernando County Emergency Operations Center, along with representatives from several other local organizations, tackled the disaster during the annual hurricane preparedness exercise.

"We want to be prepared for what might come to our county," said Cecilia Patella, emergency management director at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

In an operations room that rivals NASA in technological capacity, volunteers sat behind the glare of their computer screens in what the sheriff's public information officer, Sgt. Donna Black, described as a "well organized event."

The two-hour exercise was a dress rehearsal to prepare local authorities and emergency response groups for the recovery phase of a serious hurricane. Tactics and protocols were tested to ensure the effectiveness and productivity of each hurricane plan established by Hernando rescue teams.

"We do this event annually at the start of every hurricane season," Patella said.

Participation consisted of a joint effort from local fire departments, the Sheriff's Office and school district employees.

Each person had specific responsibilities for helping the community that involved testing a new software for emergency officials that would be used in future events.

Bill Kicklighter, director of information services for the Sheriff's Office, said catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina have helped prepare authorities in Hernando for worst-case scenarios. "We've learned a lot from those real-life events," Kicklighter said. "We want to make sure we do not make the same mistakes."

Ryan Strong can be reached at rstrong@sptimes.com and (352) 848-1432.

Hernando officials test hurricane preparedness with annual drill 06/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 6:55pm]
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