Emergency personnel from various agencies in San Juan County converged Wednesday on two cities for two emergency drills.
At the Farmington crisis exercise site on Herrera Street, just off Main Street, Devin Neeley, San Juan County public relations and film manager, said two distinct scenarios were being played out, the other in Bloomfield. Devin was joined by Albuquerque FBI Public Information Officer Frank Fisher to share information about the operations.
The Farmington drill simulated a hostage scenario, and the Bloomfield drill trained personnel to handle a toxic chemical leak. About 30 people, including the Bloomfield Fire Department and the 18-member hazardous materials team, handled the simulated crisis.
On Thursday during his drive to Albuquerque, drill coordinator and San Juan County Emergency Manager Mike Mestas said “the drill went very, very well, it was very successful. Homeland Security from Santa Fe was up to evaluate, they gave us great marks. But there’s always something to work on, always some hiccups.”
Drills are designed to test equipment, practicing procedures and improve the skills of emergency responders. Homeland Security helps to fund the San Juan County Emergency Management Department and necessary equipment, such as hazmat and bomb robots.
Mestas said six months of planning – working with various agencies – went into putting all the pieces in place for this drill. About 150 people participated, including 19 actors who volunteered as part of their involvement with the San Juan College Fire and EMS Academy. At times, even high school drama students have played roles.
Mestas said they wanted to prepare San Juan Regional Medical Center as well.
“They pretend they’re getting patients from our site,” said Mestas, who worked out of the dispatch center in Aztec.
“I was the controller and making sure everything flowed the way it was supposed to … of course, I was getting tons of calls,” he said.