A big question was posed to representatives of agencies and organizations from across McPherson County who were assembled at The Cedars on Tuesday for a Local Emergency Planning Committee table top exercise.
"What triggers your emergency response plans," asked LEPC Co-Chairman and CHS Supervisor of Health, Safety and Security Scott Swanson.
The query was one of many discussed as McPherson Fire Chief Wyssman and McPherson County Director of Emergency Management and Communications Julie McClure facilitated a hypothetical situation in which a tornado damaged a large part of McPherson.
Personnel from emergency management, government, health care, major employers, first responders and other institutions were present for the table top exercise.
"It's an opportunity for us to learn and not necessarily find problems, but to apply solutions to the things that come up that we find may be shortcomings for us," Swanson said.
The exercise went through different stages of the emergency scenario — from preparing for a tornado strike to responding immediately afterward and then thinking about what would be need for the hours and days afterward.
"If your facility took a hit, one of the first things (emergency responders) will want to know is how many people work there and how many were on the clock," McClure said.
Wyssmann said after a major disaster, a survey will be sent out around the affected area in order to compile information about any damage sustained or any aid that can be provided as quickly as possible.
"If you have people missing, don't wait for a survey to come out," McClure added. "Call 911 and get that information to us, because that's how we can triage what calls (emergency services) are going to first."
McClure also urged those present to consider what would happen if their facilities were without water or electricity for up to three days.
Transportation and care of displaced individuals was a major concern, along with the need for clear communication.
"We would set up the commission room for a media room and our policy group would be in our boardroom on the east side of the city building," commented McPherson Mayor Tom Brown, noting the city has an agreement with several other facilities in the city in case that structure was affected.
Wyssmann advised the fire department would utilize utility vehicles and drones to assess storm damage in order to avoid damaging the tires on fire trucks, keeping them available for rescue efforts.
"In a situation like this, we're not going to go after downed power lines and gas leaks," Wyssmann said. "...We want to allocate those resources to where they are going to be most effective."
McPherson Interim Chief of Police Mikel Golden said officers would establish a perimeter to control traffic and allow rescue teams to come in, along with working to coordinate staging areas for food, water and other supplies being brought in.
Keeping track of any special events and activities happening is also a priority for emergency service providers to know where aid could be needed, McClure said, adding that assistance from neighboring communities could be hindered by storm debris restricting road access for several hours.
The LEPC's emphasis on businesses and agencies having an emergency response plan in place and networking together before a disaster occurs is vital to McPherson County, Wyssmann said.
"We might be left on our own for some time," Wyssmann said. "...As a group, we're going to have to go through this process to make sure we get through that gap to when other resources can come in and help us."
For more information about the Local Emergency Planning Committee, visit https://www.mcphersoncountyks.us/655/Local-Emergency-Planning-Committee.
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