BISMARCK, N.D. – FEMA recognized the outstanding success and collaboration among local, state and federal agencies with an Administrator’s Award for Innovation.
Thanks to a new communications and cross-team strategy for managing search and rescue (SAR) efforts through a Response Operations Center (ROC), emergency responders found it easier to help residents caught in the turmoil of Red River Valley flooding this spring.
“The success of this approach in streamlining rescue response has led to its adoption in North Dakota as a dependable model for linking all levels of government in SAR operations,” said Mike Lynk, North Dakota Director of State Radio.
The State of North Dakota, local governments and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) specialists created the ROC to serve as a centralized coordination site for SAR requests. The ROC provided a direct communications link between 911 dispatchers and the appropriate SAR personnel for land, water and air rescues, as well as rescue reconnaissance. More than 10 agencies at the local, state and federal levels, including the N.D. Highway Patrol, N.D. Civil Air Patrol, N.D. National Guard and U.S. Coast Guard, collaborated in a multi-jurisdictional team approach.
Emergency 911 Centers in Red River Valley benefited from the presence of the ROC when assisting callers. Needing to make just one call to the ROC, dispatchers avoided the logistical challenge of staying connected to callers while searching for available first responders. The ROC routed the 911 dispatcher calls to the available and most appropriate personnel to provide the fastest response.
Successfully meeting the technical challenge of maintaining communications during the disaster also demonstrated the strength of the ROC and its cross-team approach. The ROC relied on North Dakota State Radio and its partnership with FEMA Disaster Emergency Communications and Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) to assure communications connectivity in uncertain circumstances. In the Red River Valley, MERS and State Radio identified common primary and backup radio frequencies and deployed antennas, towers and field programmable radios to link all agencies together in a comprehensive communications network.
Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney declared the MERS “heroes” for enabling communications across the multi-level county, state and federal team throughout the intense flooding.