Local agencies practice emergency shelter response

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Local agencies are working to improve their emergency response training to be better prepared for disasters like Hurricane Michael.

The Florida Department of Health – Bay County held an emergency shelter exercise on Wednesday at Deane Bozeman School, focusing on special needs.

“We always want to be prepared to be able to serve the community to the best of our abilities,” said Heather Kretzer, the Public Information Officer for FDOH-Bay. “We feel like if our people practice, they’re going to feel more confident and they’re going to be able to serve people to the best of their ability.”

Staff members were able to practice their skills with live actors demonstrating different types of special needs, so if disaster strikes, they’ll be better prepared to handle the situation.

“Just like with anything, you’re going to react how you train,” said Adam Johnson, a planning consultant with FDOH-Bay. “If you don’t train you might not know how to react.”

Johnson works with the health department to help create disaster response plans. He’ll be using Wednesday’s exercises to make those plans better than they were for Hurricane Michael.

“[We’re] trying to basically ask ourselves, what did we do, what went well, what didn’t go well, how can we do better,” said Johnson.

For residents, the department recommends doing the same thing at home.

“Practice those personal plans too for a hurricane, ” said Kretzer. “Whether that includes evacuation or if they’re planning on going to a shelter.”

When it comes to disaster situations, that practice could save lives.

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