Emergency managers to rehearse evacuation plan in Detroit

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
James Buford, bottom left, Donna Northern, middle, Hilton Kincaid, right. Tadarial Sturdivant, top left, Lawrence Meyer, middle, and Mark Hammond, right.

Detroit — City and county officials will practice an emergency evacuation Wednesday in southwest and downtown Detroit.

James Buford, the city’s Office of Emergency Management Chief Planner,  said the goal was to be prepared for a worst-case scenario anywhere in Metro Detroit.

"Tomorrow will just be a tabletop exercise to test the evacuation and mass sheltering plan between Detroit and surrounding counties," Buford said. "It will be a discussion-based exercise to see the specific challenges we face."

The exercise will have officials plan,  act and document their actions as if an emergency is occurring. The exercise includes the Detroit Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, agencies from six counties, state and federal government, and representatives from Canada. The agencies will have representatives present to discuss individual county actions and collaborations. 

Buford said participants will prepare  for any situation but especially tornadoes, flooding and long-term electrical outages. He said if an event were to occur, residents and workers near the affected area would be notified by emergency alerts and through media.

During the rehearsal, residents and workers in Detroit will not receive a practice warning or see any interruptions during the day. 

While the committee couldn't disclose much of their plans, county officials said during a real evacuation, people would be transported through DDOT, SMART and school buses to temporary shelters. During a technological outage, the team is prepared to use radios to communicate.

Mark Hammond, director of Monroe County's Emergency Management Divison, said they are focusing on the aftermath of an incident as well.  

"In Monroe, we're focusing on what happens when people are no longer able to return to the disaster area," Hammond said. "Identifying long-term needs, how they would get prescriptions, take care of pets ... the first 24-48 hours are taken care of, but anything longer than that needs to be looked at."

After the rehearsal, the committee, coordinated by Detroit Homeland Security, will have a meeting in which they review results and create a report and an improvement plan.  

"This is really a time to exercise with the leadership in charge if something like this were to happen," said Lawrence Meyer, director of Detroit's office of Homeland Security "... for our first-responders, to be tested and evaluated, and is a good way to look at our resources and what the region needs."