FARMINGTON — The scene at the Franklin County Emergency Management office Wednesday morning was realistic albeit a test of the center’s communication and Emergency Operation Center capabilities.

The scenario was a statewide blizzard with wind chills at 40 to 60 degrees below zero and 3 feet of snow on top of 3 inches of ice, Tim Hardy, director of Franklin County EMA, said.

Also, 16,000 customers, or 75 percent of the county, were without power, Franklin Memorial Hospital was low on fuel, a person needed oxygen, a tractor-trailer was blocking traffic on Route 27 and both Hardy farms on the Weeks Mills Road had exhausted their generator capabilities and the cows needed milking at 4:30 p.m.

Calls are made to Farmington Fire for help with the oxygen and to Maine Emergency Management Agency for a mobile milking unit, Hardy said. There were definitely going to be casualties as the blizzard went into a fifth day.

Playing his part in Wednesday’s scenario, Farmington Public Works Director Denis Castonguay tells Hardy his crew can’t get in to work on the roads.

The local exercise was part of the statewide Operation Vigilant Guard being held Wednesday and Thursday. Other scenarios included Anthrax scares, terrorist threats and collapsed buildings or bus accidents.

“The purpose is about lessons learned,” Hardy said. “It’s a test but it’s set up for us to learn.”

He said emergency personnel must determine what needs to be done and what resources are available from various agencies. Among the considerations are first responders who can’t get to an area, volunteers having to think about their own families and groceries and medications from Portland not getting to stores in Kingfield, he said.

The exercise also had something for the public to think about and learn from, officials said.

“Citizens need to pay attention and be proactive,” Clyde Ross, EMA spokesman said. They need to plan ahead for food and medications, transportation, auxiliary heating, baby formulas or pet supplies. It may mean having extra cash available for an emergency or having important documents within reach. The plan should include communication with not only someone local but also someone outside the state who is not affected by the emergency.

“They need to stay informed,” Ross said, by checking weather reports.

Many people have become complacent about potential winter storms, because Maine winters have been milder and weather can change quickly, making media reports seem exaggerated, he said.

“We’re a stalwart people, taught to do it ourselves,” Ross said. “We look at the what-ifs and know we’ll deal with it.”

Sometimes that means asking for help or reaching out and extending communication with families and neighbors, he said.

For emergency management and local fire departments, helping people prepare involves going in to the schools or speaking to senior groups, businesses and organizations.

“The reality is we have a greater responsibility,” Ross said, to educate and help people prepare, and to let them know there are responders ready to assist them in emergency situations.

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