As National Preparedness Month winds down, I’d like to share another story about how preparing before a disaster can make a difference. I already shared the story of how St. John’s Regional Medical Center used their training at FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) to respond to the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, Mo. This preparedness story takes us to North Dakota, where in June 2011 the community of Minot was preparing for its worst flooding in more than 130 years.
As the ominous flood forecasts came in Bill Brown, a retired captain with the Minot Police Department and now the Southwest Regional Emergency Response Coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, was making arrangements to staff the city's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and coordinate state resources to assist in the flood response.
Minot, ND, June 24, 2011 -- Aerial view showing the severe flooding in Minot. The city of Minot, N.D. experienced the worst flooding in over 130 years in June 2011. FEMA is working to provide assistance to those that were affected by the flooding.
Brown, a veteran of 19 courses at the Center for Domestic Preparedness, has trained in a variety of subjects to include law enforcement protective measures and response to a mass casualty event involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). However, during this event, it was not terrorists or domestic criminals threatening the streets of Minot, it was water. More than 10 feet of water from rivers surrounding Minot and other North Dakota communities poured through the streets, sweeping homes and store fronts away and forcing the evacuation of more than 12,000 people. Brown said a large scale evacuation always experiences problems, but added, his training "kicked in" and provided a sense of calm to a turbulent situation.
Combined with his experiences as a law enforcement officer and Regional Response Coordinator, Brown told us his Incident Command training at the CDP played a large role in the EOC response, coordination, and decision making. In particular, the Incident Command: Capabilities, Planning, and Response Actions for All Hazards (IC) course provided a solid foundation for planning and response.
Minot, ND, June 24, 2011 -- Bill Brown, North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, attributes his CDP training to his successful response serving in the logistics department of the Minot, N.D. Emergency Operations Center. FEMA is providing assistance to residents who were affected by flooding.
Here is how Mr. Brown described some of the training and how it prepared him for some of the worst flooding in Minot’s history:
I found the course of instruction at the CDP to be more of a real-world scenario allowing me to better retain the information. The IC class gave me the opportunity to better understand the roles of each division within the incident command structure as well as understanding the diverse perspectives of different responder disciplines. Having had this training allowed me to have a more effective understanding and better line of communication with the private, local, state, and federal organizations.
As far as decisions, when we were first assigned to the EOC, requests for resources were made to anyone who was available to take a note or a call. I decided early on to implement the use of the ICS request for resource form and advise all personnel that request for resources would be made at one central location. By doing so, resources and assignments were better assigned and tracked, status of existing personnel and equipment was monitored, and written documentation of all requests was available in the event federal reimbursement was approved.
Having been a police officer for over 30 years, I never really truly embraced or utilized the ICS concept until this flood. I was very surprised and pleased to see that it does work and it can make things run more smoothly and reduce your workload. I think all management staff including first line supervisors from every first responder organization as well as public works, highway department, city hall, finance and elected officials should attend the IC class.
Even though National Preparedness Month is winding down, it’s never too late to start preparing. I encourage local, state and tribal responders to take advantage of the unique, hands-on training that’s available at the CDP in Anniston, Ala.