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San Juan County Emergency Management to conduct drill

San Juan County Office of Emergency Management plans to conduct a full-scale drill Wednesday in Farmington. (Durango Herald file photo)
Watch for major first responder presence Wednesday in Farmington

San Juan County Office of Emergency Management plans to conduct a full-scale drill from 7 a.m. to noon Wednesday in Farmington, with a heavy presence of first responders near East Main Street and Herrera Road.

The drill tests and trains first responders for a large-scale emergency. Residents may hear simulated radio traffic on emergency frequencies as part of the drill.

Devin Neeley, San Juan County public relations and film manager, said about 150 first responders will be involved. The annual drill was canceled during the coronavirus pandemic and last occurred in 2019.

Agencies working together in the training exercise will include the Farmington Fire Department and its hazmat team; Farmington Police Department and its bomb and SWAT squads; San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and SWAT; San Juan County Fire and Rescue; San Juan Regional Medical Center EMS; and the San Juan County Communication Authority. The drill is organized in a public-private partnership with Enterprise Products. The Red Cross will support the exercise.

The drills are intended to prepare responders for “all hazards,” Neeley said. Each scenario strives to prepare law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel.

Neeley emphasized that officials want residents to know the exercise is just a drill.

“Human nature is to be curious, and when there is a large concentration of first responders, it is easy to wonder if you are safe in that location,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure that as many people as possible know that they are safe and reduce any questions or rumors that could start.”

Mike Mestas, San Juan County emergency manager since 2008, said previous drills have not caused a major public disruption, although dispatchers might receive calls Wednesday. Social media help raise awareness, he said.

“Now, with social media, it makes the job a lot easier,” he said. “It also helps if we keep the public informed.”