"If this had been an actual emergency," John Davis, a Lawrenceville ham operator explained, "we'd be ready."
That was the main point Saturday during a natural disaster simulation and training event at Snellville United Methodist Church. Around 200 volunteers representing more than a dozen groups of emergency responders and volunteers attended the all-day event, which exposed would-be rescuers what to expect and do after a natural disaster.
Davis is a member of the Gwinnett County Amateur Radio Emergency Services, which provided radio communication Saturday as if there had been an emergency. He says radio hams often provide the only communication after a disaster, since the power is frequently out.
"We can provide communication resources when there aren't any others available."
Saturday's event provided participants, many from north Georgia churches, valuable training in disaster preparedness. They were taught hand-on skills like patching a damaged roof with a tarp, how to work as a team and how to respond to the chaos in the aftermath of a disaster.
Bill Kingsbury, a member at Snellville UMC, volunteered as a "survivor" looking for his wife. Kingsbury and other "survivors" frequently approached participants to ask for help, such as finding a missing loved one.
"It's been an eye-opener to see the way people have reacted when I told them I was looking for my wife," Kingsbury said. "People reacted all over the spectrum."
Snellville Patch unknowingly played a role, too. When I approached a member of Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church from Johns Creek, she went to her team leader who came to tell me the media needed to check in with the central command. He followed the protocol.
"That's exactly what they're supposed to do when they're approached by the media," said event organizer Glenn Edebohls. "That's part of the training."
Saturday's event marked a significant personal step for Edebohls, who said his life was changed from his experience working with a Snellville UMC relief team last April in the Ringgold area. That experience led to his involvement with churches and emergency-response groups to foster natural disaster preparedness.
"Part of the idea here today is for volunteers to think, do they want to get more involved?" he said.