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“Disaster in a Box” exercise trains mutual aid responders

Wednesday, January 24, 2018  
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A mock EF5 tornado disaster leaving a massive path of pretend-destruction was the scenario for an Emergency Preparedness Tabletop Exercise, held by the Missouri Public Utility Alliance in Columbia on January 19.

Twenty participants from 13 MPUA member utilities assembled at MPUA’s offices for a morning of role-play and discussion to simulate aspects of a natural disaster recovery, including damage assessment, operational communications and coordination, and public information and messaging.

The exercise used “Public Power Tabletop Exercise in a Box” materials, a training and discussion tool developed by the American Public Power Association to help member utilities prepare for future emergencies.

“The MPUA session was a smaller-scale experience of a similar training exercise we have used for a larger national-level exercise,” said Rick McKinley, Distribution Engineer at City of Kirkwood Electric and chair of MPUA’s Mutual Aid Committee. “The purpose of ‘gaming’ an exercise scenario is to give participants a chance, in a lower-pressure environment, to collaborate and work out solutions for the kinds of things they may face in a real emergency.” McKinley said that the exercise was a good start for what he hopes will be other future sessions, designed for a wide variety of mutual aid participants and roles.    

Mark Mustain, Lineworker Safety & Training Coordinator for MPUA, observed that from a lineworker’s perspective, the exercise highlighted the critical need for proper damage assessment in emergency situations. “For a mutual aid response to function at its best, an accurate damage assessment must be given to the coordinator so he can provide the right amount of assistance,” Mustain said.

“I’m usually in a room with other communicators when I attend trainings,” said Kari Goodman, public relations coordinator with the Hannibal Board of Public Works. “This tabletop exercise consisted of those actually out in the field, first responders in the event of an emergency. So, I got to hear a different perspective. This was really helpful to me as a public communicator, because the better I can understand all aspects of an emergency and what our guys have to go through in the field, the better I can communicate to the public throughout the course of the emergency.”

MPUA training is designed to meet the unique needs of members. Regular and periodic training opportunities are provided throughout the year, and some ongoing training options are available at any time for local use. For more information about training available from MPUA, visit our website's training page, and call MPUA or contact us by email at with any training questions.

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