Archive for Thursday, November 10, 2005

Emergency plan passes its first real test

November 10, 2005

Baldwin City Council members were updated on the state of the city's emergency preparedness plan during Monday's oddly-attended meeting. The initial review shows the city is ready for disaster, but still needs more work.

Council Member Nancy Brown, who heads the safety committee and was instrumental in putting the emergency plan together, reported the results of the first table-top exercise on the plan, which was conducted Oct. 24. City department heads, another employee from each department and others participated in the disaster drill.

"It was tailored primarily to post event," said Brown. "The exercise was on a tornado striking three areas of town, including downtown, the evacuation of the nursing home and significant damage at Baker (University).

"Our task was to come up with what we would be doing 12 hours after the event," she said. "Then we moved to two days after the event, getting people back where they belong."

Baldwin is the only city, other than Lawrence, in Douglas County that has an emergency plan. For the most part, the plan passed the first test.

"It was a really good exercise," Brown said. "We're in better shape than we could be. We did identify some areas where we need some work, including communication with the community.

"We had a good time, learned a lot and have some work to do," she said.

Council President Amy Cleavinger, presiding over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Gary Walbridge, one of two council members missing, wanted to know what happens next with the plan.

"Do we go back and tweak the plan?" said Cleavinger.

Brown said yes, and noted that where the city's plan has problems is also where the Douglas County plan has trouble, too.

"Maybe recovery strategy," Brown said of tweaks to be made in the plan. "The recovery area is where we need to work. That's where the county plan falls apart, too."

Douglas County Emergency Preparedness Director Paula Phillips was also a part of the table-top exercise.

Cleavinger wanted to know if there would be more exercises.

"Do you continue to do this until you're satisfied or what?" she said.

Brown said that's a possibility, but also pointed to the plan for a major drill.

"We may do that before we do a full-blown, toe-tag type event," she said.

She was also asked about others in attendance for the walk through. She noted that there weren't representatives from Baker or the Baldwin School District.

"Baker and the school district are two important entities that need to be hooked into this," said Council Member Tony Brown.

Even without Walbridge and Council Member Ted Brechiesen Jr., who were both absent, the council's meeting room at the American Legion was packed. It wasn't a burning issue that brought out the crowd. It was a reporting class from Baker who were working on an assignment. Walbridge was sick and Brechiesen was out of town.

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