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To the rescue

Members of the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency rescue flood victims during an exercise at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind., June 16, 2015. The 181st Intelligence Wing Airmen and Vigo County EMA partnered for a simulated hurricane disaster response exercise. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Lonnie Wiram/Released)

Members of the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency rescue flood victims during an exercise at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Ind., June 16, 2015. The 181st Intelligence Wing Airmen and Vigo County EMA partnered for a simulated hurricane disaster response exercise. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Lonnie Wiram/Released)

MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind. - -- There are houses underwater. People are trapped. Water levels are high. Getting emergency vehicles to the people seems impossible. Trees have fallen, blocking roads and knocking out power. Rushing water has washed some roads away. This was the scene in Vigo County the summer of 2008.

A natural disaster, such as a flood, is just one of the many situations the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency may encounter.

During the flood in 2008, the Vigo County EMA partnered with the 181st Intelligence Wing.

"We established a working relationship and a very close relationship with the 181st after the flood in 2008," said Keith Holbert, deputy director, Vigo County EMA. "We had a very skeletal emergency operation center and the 181st provided us with logistics experience, and that skill set that the 181st has."

In 2009, the Vigo County EMA moved to the 181 IW at Hulman Field. The new facility has an emergency operations center, vehicle storage, and better resources for the job.

The Vigo County EMA has the capabilities to respond to any call. Whether it is floods, drownings, search and rescue, food distribution, safety, or disaster relief, the EMA can provide the resources.

"Our priority job is resource management," said Dorene Hojnicki, director of Vigo County EMA. "We gather the resources from the state that an incident commander would need."

For the Vigo County EMA, it is not an 8 to 5 job. They are on standby all the time.

"For our county, we do a 24 hour, 365 on call to support any of our response agencies," said Hojnicki. "We are the communications between state and federal levels for emergency management and homeland security, so on a local level, it's ensuring cooperation between all of our first response partners."

Recently, the Vigo County EMA and 181 IW participated in a simulated hurricane disaster exercise June 14-17, 2015, at Muscatatuck Urban Training, near Butlerville, Indiana.

Divers from the Department of National Resources, members of Sugar Creek Technical Rescue Team, Vigo County K9 Search and Rescue, Emergency Communications Team, Terre Haute Police Department, and West Terre Haute Police Department all participated in the simulated hurricane disaster. All have the capability to provide rapid support in response to an emergency.

The joint exercise also provided Airmen from the 181 IW the opportunity to conduct disaster training with state and local partners. In the event of a natural disaster, the 181 IW is capable of responding in support of civilian authorities to save lives, conduct search and rescue, re-establish communications, and protect property.

Vigo County EMA, being the main communications support, can establish communication when communications are down. They team up with the Vigo County Emergency Communications team.

Nick Vinardi from Vigo County EmCom works closely with Vigo County EMA to establish communications. During the exercise, they facilitated communications between the incident commander and a K-9 ground team during a search and rescue mission, Vinardi said.

"We use global positioning collars on some K-9's," said Hojnicki. "We have a mapping system that we use that when a dog comes back we can upload the information to see where we checked and cleared."

During the exercise, a storm system was moving into the area and the Vigo County EMA watched the weather closely, just as they would during a real world event.

We have weather personnel that work with us to give us detailed weather plans and updates on weather systems, said Vinardi.

Weather is critical to our mission plans, said Hojnicki.

The exercise was very close to real world, but real world situations are never planned.

"You cannot put a value on training until you have a real world situation and the training comes into play, then you can put a value on how much you need training," said J.D. Kesler, Deputy Director Administration, Vigo County EMA.

No one could prepare for the flood in 2008, but thanks to great training and teamwork, the Vigo County EMA was better prepared to handle the flood and any situation in the future.