Area's ability to handle disaster to be assessed

The tests were scheduled for Sept. 13-14, but were delayed after the terrorist attacks.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The ability of Mahoning County safety forces to respond to an emergency will be tested today and Friday.
The Ohio Emergency Management Agency will conduct the two-day assessment at the county's South Side Annex on Market Street, said Walter Duzzny, executive director of the county EMA.
"Having the state come in here and do this takes the fox-in-the-henhouse scenario out of it," Duzzny said.
The Ohio State Capability Assessment for Readiness, or OSCAR, program looks at the county's level of preparation to handle a disaster situation and offers insight into ways to improve where necessary.
"It's an all-county issue and quality of life issue," Duzzny said.
Group assessment: The voluntary program "covers a multitude of details" and will be conducted in a group assessment format, Duzzny said. County and local agencies and departments, law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services and private sector groups will participate.
The program was originally scheduled for Sept. 13-14, but was postponed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Duzzny said the impact of the attacks and the subsequent heightened awareness about terrorism make the training program a timely issue.
"People understand now that we need to go into high gear when it comes to being prepared," he said. "Each employee has to be ready to put in whatever hours are needed when an emergency happens and not worry about starting at 8 a.m. and leaving at 4:30 [p.m.]."
Today's session is primarily aimed at administrative personnel and will deal with topics such as resource management, public education and operation procedures, said Clark Jones, EMA planning and training officer.
Friday's session will be more extensive and involve more personnel, Jones said.
More information: Duzzny was among a group of emergency response officials from the county who attended a three-hour briefing Wednesday by Ohio Lt. Governor Maureen O'Connor and other state officials. The state leaders gave an overview of the status of terrorist threats in the nation and how Ohio fits into the Homeland Security program, Duzzny said.
"They told us to not focus just on anthrax. There are other threats out there that we need to look at," he said.
Officials also talked about the need for improved communication and for mutual aid agreements between counties to help each other in times of emergency.
Duzzny said he'll share some of that information with those who attend the OSCAR training. Also attending the training Wednesday were police and fire officials from Austintown, Boardman, Campbell, North Jackson and Poland.

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