County Office of Emergency Services take part in massive flood drill

The Merced County Office of Emergency Services (OES) said that local city and county agencies participated Thursday in Golden Guardian Exercise, the largest statewide exercise drill in the nation.

The flood-themed Full Scale Exercise was the seventh statewide homeland security and disaster preparedness exercise in the annual Golden Guardian Exercise Series, OES said in a news release. Locally, the exercise focused on the cities of Merced and Los Banos and specifically exercised Merced's strategy in preparing for, responding to and recovering from flooding affecting Merced County. That flooding would be part of a catastrophic flood also affecting most of the state.

As part of the exercise, more than 5,000 local, regional, state and federal responders, as well as state agencies and private industry, participated in various events throughout the state.

"Living in Merced County, we face many unique challenges when it comes to natural disasters. It is the responsibility of all of us to actively prepare ourselves against these risks," Capt. Danny Suarez, Merced County OES, said in a news release.

Flood operations are being tested in several areas of Merced County. The individual events are linked to the County Emergency Operations Center that was activated for the exercise to support the response and recovery effort. The news release said various capabilities were assessed, including communications, emergency management mutual aid, citizen evacuation and structural damage mitigation, as well as transitioning to recovery.