NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Crisis Management Team held a water management tabletop exercise today to walk through a simulated high-water event within the Cumberland River Basin in Middle Tennessee.

Jerry Breznican, Nashville District Emergency Management Section chief; Anthony Rodino, Water Management Section chief; and Kyle Hayworth, Dam Safety Program manager; facilitated the exercise that involved a simulated rainfall and high water event near Center Hill Dam on the Caney Fork River in Lancaster, Tenn.

More than 30 Crisis Management Team officials from the Nashville District, emergency management officials from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Wilson County, DeKalb County and Sumner County participated and discussed actions that would be taken at different timeframes during a crisis response.

"What a timely opportunity to exercise this organization and crisis management team for a potential high water event," said Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Nashville District commander. "An exercise improves fitness, efficiency, and helps identify gaps."

Jones indicated that the exercise comes at a time when the district is already conducting water management operations and holding water back at Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River in Kuttawa, Ky., to alleviate flood risk on the lower Ohio River and Mississippi River.

As a heavy rainfall scenario developed, participants gave input on what actions their respective work centers would take in support of a significant high water event in the Cumberland River Basin. The objectives included looking at operating procedures, decision-making processes, resources, roles and responsibilities, and coordination between local, state and federal agencies.

Breznican said it's important to understand roles and responsibilities during any flood event and how to execute the mission, look at interagency relationships, and improve action plans.

"In a tabletop exercise we sit around a table and we discuss a situation that is in a low stress environment," Breznican said.

In providing background information for the exercise, Rodino gave an overview of the district's 10 dam projects in the Cumberland River Basin and their authorized purposes. He explained how reservoir projects have more capacity to hold water, while the run-of-the river dams have less storage capacity and have to pass water downstream. He then set the stage for the exercise and explained that in the beginning a quantitative precipitation forecast would trigger activation of the crisis management team.

In other words, an expected high rain event would cause the Corps of Engineers to manage its people and resources for an expected influx of water runoff from a storm moving through Middle Tennessee.

"The goal is to make sure that everyone is on the same page so if things intensify the team is prepared and able to coordinate and discuss what their actions would be," Rodino said.

As the exercise scenario developed the area around Center Hill Dam experienced over a foot of rainfall, which led to simulated dam safety issues. Hayworth facilitated a discussion on what actions would be taken at the dam where there is an ongoing dam safety construction project and interim dam safety measures are in place to keep the lake level reduced for public safety.

Chris Cunningham (Right), Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said he would be focused on situational awareness as the forecasts changed and rainfall increased.

"Those situational products that are pushed out of here help us to understand so that we can help communicate that to the right places because really the top priority in the SEOC (State Emergency Operations Center at TEMA) is coordination," Cunningham said.

The group focused a lot on communication between organizations and in support of public safety. At the end of the exercise, participants provided input as necessary to identify lessons learned and suggest ways to improve processes.

Joey Cooper, Wilson County EMA director, said he valued this exercise because it really opened his eyes to understand how the Corps of Engineers operates during a crisis and how the dams are managed as a system to reduce flood risk.

"During this tabletop I learned a tremendous amount of information, not only from the Corps' side, but from the state side and other agencies since we're all partnered here together," Cooper said.

Breznican said the tabletop exercise served as a precursor for the State of Tennessee Catastrophic exercise (referred to as TNCAT18) scheduled in June 2018.

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