More than 100 first responders from the East Texas Council of Governments’ 14-county region took part in a public safety exercise to examine practices among emergency communications systems.

The event was hosted from Friday through Sunday at Tyler Junior College West, located on South Southwest Loop 323 in Tyler.

Radio communications tests were conducted throughout the three-day exercise and scheduled among workshop courses on the communication systems and technology capacities. Participants also discussed the future of emergency communications. 

The event was coordinated in partnership with the Texas Department of Public Safety – Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Pineywoods Regional Advisory Council, and the East Texas Council of Governments.

First responders from Anderson, Camp, Cherokee, Gregg, Harrison, Henderson, Marion, Panola, Rains, Rusk, Smith, Upshur, Van Zandt and Wood Counties participated in the public safety exercise with the purpose of improving the coordination of communications to provide better emergency service response. Champion EMS and UT Health East Texas EMS also participated.

“Communications and interoperability challenges continue to affect our emergency responses,” said Russell Marshall, event coordinator and Fire Chief/ EMC for the City of Athens. “The number one topic that is present in every after-action review is problems with communications.”

Marshall said the best way to remedy communication issues is for first responders to consistently train and stay abreast of current trends, plans, protocols and technologies.

Attendees were able to see regional assets and talk with their colleagues who manage them. They also learned what is included in the Texas Statewide Interoperability Channel Plan and how it affects their organization.

Ultimately, Marshall said, the goal of the exercise was for these professionals to return home and share this information with their organizations, to create a better system of emergency communication across the region.

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