O.C. Hosts Family Reunification Center Exercise

GOSHEN – Orange County’s Department of Emergency Management hosted a family reunification center exercise at the Emergency Services Center on Wednesday, January 18th.

A reunification center is a designated location established to reunite families and loved ones after a large-scale emergency, weather-related or mass casualty event. The reunification center also provides information, updates, and services for family members of victims who were killed or injured.

“Orange County is very proactive about emergency preparedness and has developed comprehensive plans designed to protect our residents,” Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus said. “However, if an emergency occurs, we must be able to support all residents who are impacted during and after the event. Working collaboratively with local law enforcement and first responders, this exercise will help to develop a smooth and well-planned reunification process should an emergency occur.”

Posey presents during the reunification center exercise.
Posey presents during the reunification center exercise.

The reunification exercise was a follow-up to the active shooter drill that the County hosted with Orange-Ulster BOCES on November 8th of last year. Approximately 210 Police Officers and other first responders within Orange County participated in that training exercise. The drill helped ensure a coordinated, timely, and effective response in the event of a significant incident. It also educated attendees on how to recognize signs of potential violence at schools, to respond to an active shooting or other violent situation, and to create an emergency action plan.

Featured speakers at the reunification exercise included Carly Posey, whose two children were involved in the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT. in 2012. Posey now runs the nationally recognized program “I Love You Guys,” which helps communities develop plans for family reunification and assistance centers.

Tara Hughes, Project Director at Improving Community Preparedness to Assist Victims of Mass Violence or Domestic Terrorism: Training and Technical Assistance Program (ICP TTA), also spoke at the event. Hughes is an expert in mass casualty incident response and has responded to several mass casualty events, including the Boston Marathon bombing, Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and the Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting in Nevada.

The panel also included Max Green, the National Transportation Safety Board’s Emergency Operations and Disaster Coordination Director. Green has responded to more than 300 incidents, including the Asiana flight 214 crash in San Francisco, Miami Bridge collapse, and the Colegan Air Flight 3407 crash in Buffalo.

When the worst happens in a community, a collaborative response is needed to ensure an effective Information and Notification Center, Family and Friends Assistance Center and long-term resilience program,” Hughes said. “Planning in advance for these response tasks means that responders will know each other and know their responsibilities before the response, greatly reducing chaos for those who are impacted. The initiative that Orange County is taking to host this response training will not only benefit the community served by Orange County Emergency Management but will also allow for planning across local counties to increase the effectiveness of any response that needs to happen.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email