The residents of Farmington NM and the surrounding areas can rest easy knowing that their local fire, law enforcement, emergency medical staff and local industries have tested their skills and are prepared to respond to a chemical incident in their community. These dedicated emergency response personnel recently demonstrated what over 5 months of training together had taught them during a full-scale, mass casualty, HAZMAT exercise conducted by FEMA on July 22, 2000.
Farmington was selected by the NM State Division of Emergency Management to participate in the exercise, known nationally as the CHER-CAP (Comprehensive HAZMAT Emergency Response- Capability Assessment Program). Although the CHER-CAP has been utilized in Region VI for many years, Farmington is the second of four exercises in an effort to nationalize the program. This program is unique in that peer evaluators, which consist of fire, police, and EMS professionals from throughout Region VI, are used to evaluate the exercise. As an added benefit, the exercise allows the evaluators to observe what worked well in the exercise and take back new ideas to their communities.
While the exercise itself was deemed a success, San Juan County Emergency Director Don Cooper best captured the spirit of the CHER-CAP by stating, "Even if we had not had today's exercise we have benefited tremendously from the months of practicing and planning that occurred. It was a test for all of us coming together to do it".
With over 65 organizations participating in the exercise, including response agencies from the Navajo Nation, Farmington was able to improve their existing emergency plans, establish stronger communication between response agencies, and encourage an atmosphere of coordination and planning within the community.