Operation Forging Steel tests Sheridan County's disaster preparation plans

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SHERIDAN COUNTY If a disaster were to happen, it helps to have a plan of attack. Sheridan County is putting their plan into action to make sure it works.

It's important to have an emergency plan in the worst case scenario.

"You build up your plans and your policies, then you train and then you test them to see if they work," said Roberta Kavon, Sheridan County Hospital Emergency Prep.

Agencies in Sheridan County are making sure their plans will work if they're needed. Operation Forging Steel is a disaster preparation scenario meant to test those plans.

"It started out with a hazardous material release from a Burlington Northern car, Burlington Northern has been great to work with," said Curtis Petrik, Sheridan County Disaster and Emergency Prep.

Under the scenario, a BNSF car of Bakken Crude gets mixed with a car full of anhydrous ammonia creating a haz-mat spill resulting in a large number of people sent to the hospital.

"It's meant to overwhelm us so we have to look at outside agencies and see what's available and see how that flows," said Kavon.

Operation Forging Steel also will involve the Montana National Guard. It provides training for them, as well.

"Making sure that our troop movements happen on time, that their communications are good and that they're able to complete the mission that we've tasked them to complete," said Major Jeremy Hedges, Montana National Guard.

While the subject may be serious and the training important, that doesn't mean that it's all business for those participating.

"As a player it's a lot of fun. It's nerve-wracking cause you don't want people to see your mistakes. But we hope to learn. There is no right answer or wrong answer, we just want to improve," said Petrik.

Operation Forging Steel will continue through the weekend.

More than 150 people are expected to participate in some way over the next few days.