At the beginning of the year, we saw firsthand the devastating effects of deadly tornadoes in Central and South Georgia.

As these areas are working to repair and rebuild, first responders are working to make sure they are properly trained to handle potential disasters.

The Department of Defense will hold one of the largest interagency disaster relief training exercises in the state called Vigilant Guard.

“We try to replicate the disaster site as best we can and the challenges that the responders are going to have,” said vice president of operations DJ Hathaway.

Though all the mangled cars and destroyed buildings are just elaborate sets, Hathaway says the experience is as real as it gets.

“Our goal is to take those first responders out of their comfort zones and away from what seems like a carefully scripted scenario and get them to switch over in their mind to feel that this is really occurring,” said Hathaway.

This is part of a massive training event, where law enforcement, medical professionals, and military personnel will all learn how to respond to hurricanes and tornadoes.

Right now it looks like an abandoned wasteland, but soon, about 1000 participants from state, local and federal agencies will all be taking part in this immersive experience.

“Teaching people to be adaptable in a situation is hard to do without the role players, actually having them with real problems in front of them that they have to overcome before they move to the next one,” said Hathaway.

That was the devastating reality just a few months ago when tornadoes swept through Georgia, destroying homes and killing people in Albany.

We cannot stop natural disasters from happening, but we can provide professionals with the knowledge and tools to help in the aftermath. Live-action training could mean the difference in a life-saving effort.

The training will run all next week from March 27 - April 2.

Vigilant Guard is a quarterly preparedness exercise and the simulated emergencies can range from infectious diseases to terrorist attacks to weather.

If you would like to be a role-player in future exercises, contact The Guardian Centers at 478-224-5700 for more information.

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