Emergency management visits Rotary

DOWAGIAC — The Dowagiac Rotary Club welcomed special guests tasked with keeping Cass County safe.

David Smith and Kayla Malcom of the Cass County Office of Emergency Management Homeland Security visited the Dowagiac Rotary Club Thursday to answer questions about the office.

The Office of Emergency Management Homeland Security aims to support emergency responders and community members in their effort to prepare for, protect against, respond to, and recover from emergencies and disasters.

Smith will be retiring in October after 14 years as Cass County’s Emergency Management Coordinator and Malcom, a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, will step into the role.

“The emergency management coordinator position was not really a dedicated position before David assumed the role,” said Cass County Sheriff Richard Behnke, who introduced the two speakers to the club. “He came in and really professionalized the position and made it a professional organization for us in Cass County. He is respected throughout the region and the state.”

According to Malcom, there are four phases of emergency management. The first phase is mitigation, which involves using measures to lessen the impact of a disaster. The second phase is preparation, the phase carried out before the disaster occurs.

“This involves making a plan, building a kit and being informed,” Malcom said. “It also involves using your phone to receive weather alerts, talking to your coworkers and neighbors about being prepared and coming up with plans with your family or friends.”

The third phase — response — is what happens during the emergency with first responders coming into play. The final phase of emergency management is recovery.

“This happens after the disaster and involves getting back to the status quo. It involves helping infrastructure get back to normal, gathering the community and getting everything back on track.”

The duo then discussed disasters and emergencies Cass County has faced recent years, including severe weather and flooding and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to Smith, the county has faced 25 major incidents since he took the position 14 years ago.

Behnke commended Smith for his efforts involving the rollout of the COVID vaccine in the county.

“David, the sheriff’s department and the health department had a plan in place to get vaccines out,” Behnke said. “We had to reformat the plan a little bit. The vaccine was set to be administered at SMC but it ended up being in the gym because they started rolling out in the winter. So even though you have a plan, it needs to be altered as the conditions change and take shape.”

Smith and Malcom also talked about National Preparedness Month, an observance each September to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time.

To close the presentation, Malcom shared four tips for National Preparedness Month:

  1. Make a plan — Having a conversation with friends and family about what to do in the event of an emergency.
  2. Build a kit — An emergency kit should have 72 hours’ worth of food and water. Emergency Management recommends packing items including batteries for flashlights, masks, hand sanitizers and more.
  3. Low-cost, no-cost awareness — Being prepared through weather alerts on phone, news, newspapers, friends or coworkers.
  4. Teach youth about preparedness — Talking about preparedness with youth at home or in school, keeping emergency contact information in backpacks and memorizing important phone numbers.

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