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Bellingham company focused on emergency preparation

People call TRUSYS to help them prepare for what they hope will never happen.

The company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Bellingham, helps agencies and companies prepare for a variety of emergencies and how to deal with both the event and the aftermath.

In recent months, TRUSYS helped organize a plane crash drill at Bellingham International Airport and the simulation of a school shooting in the Ferndale School District. In those kinds of drills, the comapny can provide an outsider’s view of what improvements should be made.

John Gargett, a managing principal at TRUSYS who is in the Bellingham office, has seen the evolution of emergency situations since he got into the industry in May 1980, around the time of the Mount St. Helens eruption. Since then he has traveled around the world consulting with companies and organizations about a variety of emergency situations. While the trends of incidents are probably about the same, the reporting is up.

“We’re in an information age where something that’s published can provoke a police response,” Gargett said.

Being in the information age also means organizations are vulnerable to cyber attacks, which have quickly become the top issue for companies and organizations. Gargett said the key is to identify the risks, and most often it is the human element. A computer breach could happen from something as innocuous as allowing an outside contractor access to files while trying to repair something else.

It’s the high-profile situations, such as a school shooting, that can be particularly challenging to handle. A day after the shooter drill in Ferndale was the Oct. 24, 2014, school shooting in Marysville where four students were fatally wounded by the shooter, who killed himself.

“We started getting a lot of calls after that (Marysville shooting),” said Yvonne Cartwright, business development professional for the company.

While dealing with the actual school shooting or other workplace violence is crucial to handle properly, what’s often overlooked is handling the aftermath when the emergency vehicles have left, she said. The company can help with advice on what needs to be in place to get the company or organization back up and running after an event.

As dealing with emergency situations becomes more complex, it makes regular practice drills more important, said Neil Clement, emergency management officer for the Port of Bellingham. The port’s recent exercise at the airport revealed no glaring problems, he said, but it’s always a work in progress to adapt to changing situations.

“We’re lucky to have a local contractor with the breadth of experience that John (Gargett) has,” Clement said. “Having a third-party view of how situations are handled is very valuable.”

More information about the company can be found at trusys.com.

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