Agencies meet to discuss emergency response planning

MARSHALL – What do you do after a tornado hits a community and displaces hundreds of people? What if you had to evacuate and house 3,000 people because of a chemical spill? In the event of a gas explosion, who is in charge of responding and helping? Those questions are being considered and answered during monthly Emergency Response Planning meetings.

Lyon County public safety officials met with both public and private sector agencies to coordinate emergency management efforts and protocols Thursday afternoon at the Law Enforcement Center.

Minnesota Homeland Security Emergency Management Region 5 Program Coordinator Amy Card oversees 18 counties in southwest Minnesota and coordinates emergency response among counties and state agencies. Card spoke with attendees about the importance of sharing information and response plans as well as public and private partnerships.

“Eighty percent of the resources emergency response needs comes from the private sector,” Card said. She cited companies such as Lowe’s and Home Depot donating building supplies or financial institutions providing cyber security. Representatives from local hospitals, schools and large employers were encouraged to share crisis plans with local law enforcement as well as resources that they could provide in an emergency.

Jennifer Hey, a counselor at Marshall Middle School and member of the district crisis committee, shared highlights from the school’s emergency plan that covers protocols and threat assessments for the district. The school’s crisis manual outlines scenarios and an array of incidents from natural disasters and pandemics to bomb threats and hostage situations. By sharing the school’s crisis plan, local law enforcement and response teams can better understand how to respond to an emergency at the school.

“Finding what resources we have and what resources we need to respond helps us find those gaps and fill them,” Card said concerning the importance of sharing information.

Card outlined how organizations can create an emergency response plan by setting up a incident chain-of-command and an accountability system. Mitigation, preparedness, disaster response and an aftermath plan all need to be considered when creating an emergency plan.

Representatives from U.S. Bank, Avera, Affiliated Community Medical Centers and other local businesses also discussed their emergency plans and what they can do to better their crisis management efforts. Public Safety Director Rob Yant encouraged more private sector involvement and invited local business representatives to attend future meetings to coordinate efforts.

The next Emergency Response Planning meeting will be from 2:30-4 p.m. Sept. 18, at the Law Enforcement Center training room.