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Forsyths weather training proves timely

FORSYTH COUNTY — As the temperature dropped Monday, Forsyth County public safety officials spent the day in the emergency operations center, planning for the worst. 

They knew it was unlikely that this week’s weather would bring any issues beyond bone-chilling cold, but they took part in a statewide drill to be certain everything was ready when winter arrives to stay.

“This is a great kickoff point for us,” said Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers. “We’ve got both very rural areas, as well as tight suburban communities, but our stations each know their territories, and it’s up to us to give them the support they need to do their jobs.”

The statewide exercise kicks off in full force this morning, with a meeting at GEMA headquarters in Atlanta and a statewide simulated weather emergency. 

Maj. Patrick Watson, with the 560th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, headquartered at the National Guard Regional Readiness Center in Cumming, liked what he saw Monday.

“In the military, it’s all about training,” he said. “You train, train and then train some more. And then when it’s real, it’s just like training.”

The Guard likely will have someone at the operations center during future winter weather events.

Last winter, it dispatched several military vehicles to help emergency workers during ice storms. Officials said they’ll be prepared to do so again if needed.

Forsyth authorities gathered Monday to prepare, just as they would for a real weather emergency, according to Shivers. 

“It’s a fact, living in Georgia, you just can’t have the roads cleared for traffic immediately,” he said. “It just isn’t possible from a budgetary standpoint. So we have to figure out how to still provide the emergency services they need.”

Officials discussed everything from who would shovel the sidewalks at county recreation centers — which would be opened as warming shelters in the event of a prolonged power outage — to which agency would be responsible for keeping the generators at those shelters fueled and running. 

Fire Capt. Rick Hamilton said the training is designed to show any weak points before a real emergency. 

“This lets us identify each department’s role so we don’t have any overlap and we don’t’ miss any areas that need to be covered,” he said.