BY MELANIE BUCK –
A mandatory duel exercise for high hazard dams will be conducted at Irons Fork Lake and Mena Lake on Tuesday, April 12th, with many of the city and county’s officials and entities taking part. The training exercise is part of the emergency action plans required by regulators from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.
The Commission enforces federal regulations on dams and requires ‘tabletop,’ or ‘small-scale,’ exercises to be performed yearly and full-scale operations every three years. For the exercise, a scenario is set up that requires emergency action, communication, and rapid response, training locals with the knowledge of what to do if the dam is somehow breached.
The initial premise in this year’s scenario, is that 13 ½ inches of rain has fallen in 24 hours. During that time the ‘rapidly developing condition’ phase of the emergency action plan is followed and all participating units will be on location when the alarm is sounded for the ‘practically instantly failure’ phase to start. The instant failure phase is a simulation of the dam breaking and sending massive floodwaters through surrounding terrain. During this phase, both emergency rescues and recoveries are practiced.
The training will kick-off at 1 p.m. and will last until around 10 p.m. The ‘dam failure’ alarm will be sounded at 7 p.m. Polk County’s Office of Emergency Management will set up a command center at the pavilion at Mena Lake. The ‘dam failure’ at Mena Lake will occur around 8:30 p.m., creating a duel-training program.
Ward Lake is also considered a high hazard dam but is not included in the training this year.
Graydon Clark, Consultant for Technical Services Group, conducts the exercise where more than 300 people are expected to participate. Those participants include members of Mena Fire, Mena Water Utilities, Polk County OEM, Sheriff’s Department, City of Mena, Mena Police Department, Southwest EMS, Liberty EMS, Air Evac, and Cherry Hill, Dallas Valley, and Ink Fire Departments.