Volunteers train in CEMA's Damage Assessment Exercise - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Volunteers train in Damage Assessment Exercise

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CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

The Chatham Emergency Management Agency is constantly training for the "what ifs" and Wednesday was no different. They launched Operation Savannah Gardens, a hurricane assessment exercise, meaning the immediate response after a Category 3 storm hits the Coastal Empire. 

Through pictures and scripts and a little imagination, the volunteers from all over spanned out several blocks of downtown Savannah gathering information home by home, trying to figure out who to help first. 

Clayton Scott, the director of CEMA, said: "It's great weather, which makes this exercise to easy to perform, but at the same time a little difficult to picture devastation, but when you're planning a major operation, you have to roll rain or shine." 

The teams gather information that goes to the state and possibly all the way to the White House. 

"We spend a lot of time explaining ahead of time teaching them what the damage assessment forms look like and how to report back to us," Scott said. 

But it's not just bricks and mortar, CEMA also tries to keep it real with staging victims at some of the homes.  Jack Imber, who volunteers with CEMA, played one of those victims. 

"You don't want to be harassed by the role player … you know what I mean, but they've been very helpful, very calming," said Imber. "This is our chance to learn. You can have 20 hours of classroom time or 15 minutes in the field and this where it's most valuable. "

Other volunteers are taking notes on best practices on gathering the information and helping those victims. A group from Liberty County were evaluating and taking more notes than some.

Glenda Roberts, the chief appraiser for the Liberty County Assessor's Office, said: "Even though I'm evaluating their exercise, the notes that I'm taking will definitely go back home with me and hopefully in the future, we too will implement a full scale exercise in Liberty County."

Roberts and her team from Liberty County walked the so-called ravaged streets and after the exercise, shared their thoughts with Chatham Team members: "Everybody has an important role to play and everybody working together. Cooperation is key."

Scott said holding an exercise like this with different municipalities in Chatham County, Fort Stewart and Liberty County is recreating an accurate emergency response.

"It promotes the learning process, because this is the way the teams will be because they'll be from a number of factions, they won't be from a particular department, particular city, or a particular agency," he said. 

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