City drills workers on being prepared for emergencies

City officials in Wolfforth took part in a drill so real, some started to take action earlier this month.

It was the first city-level drill in Wolfforth involving police, fire and maintenance workers and an official from Frenship Independent School District.

The drill, called a “pop quiz” by City Manager Darrell Newsom, involved Xcel Energy representative Steve Deaton telling assembled workers that the company would have to shut off all power to an area covering 67 counties in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico for an extended period of time.

On Feb. 1, Deaton briefed Wolfforth city employees and volunteers from the Wolfforth Fire Department on the mock-situation, but did not tell them it was not an emergency that would not actually happen.

“Steve went ahead and said, ‘We’re about to shut power down in 10 minutes,’” Newsom said. He said one city worker immediately jumped up to go to the city sewer facilities.

“They were so fired up. That’s a good thing. A lot of times in the drills I’m involved in, people are just dumbfounded. ‘What do I do?’” Deaton said. But he said most of the time when Xcel does drills, employees know it is a drill.

“We did fool them pretty good,” Deaton said of Wolfforth’s employees, chuckling sheepishly.

Newsom said he did not want the Wolfforth city team to go any further than creating a plan of action in this initial drill.

Deaton said Newsom told the employee it was just a drill, and then the entire group worked for an hour on formulating a plan for the situation.

Mayor Charles Addington, also the chief of Wolfforth Fire and EMS, said firefighters are used to drills, but there has never been a drill for police, fire and maintenance to work together.

Addington said it was Newsom’s idea to do a city-level drill. In cases of city-wide disaster, he said city employees such as the maintenance department might have to be involved in water and sewer issues.

“We did this drill to get a start on making sure we’re prepared,” Addington said. “We just wanted to have an initiating event.”

The biggest issue the city might face is communication, the mayor said. City officials will need to make sure they can communicate with school and business authorities, as well as to each other.

“We’re definitely going to be doing more in the future,” Addington said.

Deaton said the city’s response was the most organized he has ever experienced.

He said the city had basic ideas of how they would handle a regional outage, but those in the drill worked together to refine their plans, deciding who would be in charge and how to orchestrate a city response.

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