Waldo County Emergency Management Agency got a chance over the weekend to practice its ability to care for many people in a disaster.

The agency hosted a mass care shelter exercise at Mount View High School in Thorndike, designed to feed and house area residents in the event of a widespread weather incident or power outage.

The exercise opened with a spaghetti dinner Friday night, offering the opportunity for EMA volunteers to practice preparing meals for large numbers of people.

There were more than 10 Scouts BSA troops attending the event. Most of them expected to stay overnight in the gym as part of the preparedness exercise for the American Red Cross, which was collaborating with Waldo County EMA for the event.

The Waldo EMA and Red Cross used the Scouts as mock residents to practice overnight care.

Sharon Collin, the shelter manager, has been a Red Cross volunteer for 14 years. She said Mount View is one of the best places for an emergency shelter because it has a generator, a large kitchen, and the required number of bathrooms.

She urges everyone to have a go-bag with medications, paperwork, credit cards and other important items for situations that require fast evacuations.

“The better prepared the people are, the safer they’ll be in the long run,” Collin said.

Rob Hoey, who works for Waldo EMA, is a part of a federal program that uses amateur ham radio operators in emergency situations. A Searsmont resident, he has prepared his property to respond to emergency situations he might face, but realizes that most people in Maine don’t prepare as much as they should.

Because Maine doesn’t experience major emergency situations often, Hoey thinks residents take it for granted and are too dependent on the government. He said it is hard to get residents to prepare when emergency events are rare.

“If you put your survival … in someone else’s hands, you’re putting yourself in jeopardy,” Hoey said. “There are people who live in urban areas that have absolutely no idea how to survive when their infrastructure fails.”

There are many different reasons the power grid can fail, such as major solar flares that produce a pulse of energy which overwhelms control of the power grid, major weather events and human tampering.

Emergency exercises like this one at Mount View prepare and train people to respond in emergency situations.

Events like this also allow Scouts to gain the experience they need to receive badges. Scouts at the event were working toward their first aid, emergency preparedness and radio safety badges.

Skylar DaSilva and Elizabeth Rowley, both 12, are the only two members of a Winterport troop established last February. They both wanted to join the Scouts for hands-on experience with trips and events similar to emergency preparedness.

Elizabeth comes from a family of preparedness. Her father Dale is Waldo County EMA director, and she says her family members have always been major participants in Scouts.

“My family's always been big into Scouts and there’s so much stuff you can do,” she said. “It varies with everyone's interest … I prefer the more high adventure stuff.”

Skylar said she was excited to sleep over in Mount View’s gym. Each troop wrote and performed its own skit as a way to stay entertained during the event, which lasted until the following afternoon.

Two classes were taught on Saturday — pet first aid and shelter fundamentals. Both were open to the public.

Dale Rowley used the exercise beyond an emergency preparedness drill to reach out to community members about other events Waldo County EMA is staging.

“We’ve been trying a media campaign on getting the word out,” Rowley said, “and this is one of the ways that we’re going to try to do that …. It’s to practice doing it, practice the mass feeding piece and also to get information out to the public.”

Waldo County EMA will be hosting a Preparedness Fair Saturday, Sept. 7, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Belfast YMCA.