EOC activated at City HallPublished 9:01am Friday, September 11, 2009
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Thursday’s countywide disaster exercise gave Mennel Milling and Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital, which set up its decontamination tent and declared a lockdown, an opportunity to test detailed emergency plans.
“It’s not a one-day activity that’s over and done,” City Manager Kevin Anderson said. “In terms of follow-up, over the next week, everybody involved will be submitting written reports, which we’ll take and use that information for a follow-up meeting in two weeks to then do a full assessment of our response, what worked well and what could be improved and implementing any changes that are necessary.”
For the City of Dowagiac, which activated its emergency operations center (EOC) in the conference room adjacent to the council chamber at City Hall, responding involved Public Safety Director Tom Atkinson’s police and fire personnel and department heads throughout the administration.
City officials also worked hand in hand with Coloma Emergency Medical Services (CEMS), which provides Dowagiac’s ambulance coverage, Wayne Township Fire Department and David Smith, Cass County’s emergency management coordinator.
Of immediate concern to officials monitoring the tabletop exercise at City Hall was how well telephones which plug into outlets in the ceiling would work.
Half did, half didn’t, but within 10 minutes, all were up and running, Anderson said. “We were able to get them squared away very quickly.”
Anderson said department heads gather to assess the incident confronting them and “who else needs to be called,” such as the Department of Public Services.
In a real leak, they might have been mapping out an evacuation of the adjacent residential neighborhood “if the incident warranted it,” Anderson said. “We would alert the DART (Dial-a-Ride Transit) system” so the red buses could help transport residents to safety.
Assistant City Manager Rozanne Scherr works with Red Cross to assess where temporary shelter could be established.
“I’d like to see this done every couple of years,” said Anderson, who marked his first anniversary of arriving from South Haven Aug. 18.
“You can’t be too prepared,” given the more favorable odds of being visited by a tornado, snowstorm or high winds such as assaulted the Armory and Municipal Airport.
Anderson said there were three victims, including one fatality and two transported to the hospital.
“They’re okay,” said police Sgt. Michael Heidenreich.
There were also five “walk-ins” who presented themselves to hospital personnel as being exposed to the plume.
“In many ways, we’re real fortunate to have a person like Patty here,” Anderson said.
Patty Klug of the Police Department is a former county emergency coordinator.
Also, a few years ago department heads went to Washington, D.C., for extensive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) training.
“Two thirds of the people sitting around the table today have been through intensive FEMA training previously,” Anderson said.