Emergency Responder Agencies Perform Communications Drill

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Panama City- Many noticed a little more helicopter activity in parts of Bay County on Tuesday.

It was part of a day long drill involving emergency responders from the state and a large selection of the panhandle.

"So far it has been an excellent test. We have found that we do have some weaknesses, but we also have a lot of strengths," said April Hantzis, one of the many helicopter pilots taking part in Tuesday's drill.

The purpose of the exercise is to test communication between multiple emergency responder agencies.

"We can all come together and work out those problems so that we have a better interoperability of all agencies in the event of a natural disaster, a terrorist event," said Hantzis.

Bay County Sheriff's Communications Director Rob Fortner says his team uses frequency "patches" to patch together radio communication in times of emergency.

"We can connect all of these communication centers or all of these regions so that we can respond in a joint fashion," said Fortner.

The Florida Interoperability Network is comprised of ten nearby counties.
Bay, Walton, Escambia, and Jackson Counties Sheriff's Office helicopters all participated in testing communications.

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