Conference strengthens community emergency response
On June 12 to 14, the state Dept. of Homeland Security And Emergency Management and Kawerak, Inc., called together a meeting of representatives from Seward Peninsula villages and local response agencies.
The confab in Nome at the Mini Convention Center featured a rural resiliency workshop for emergency preparedness. State DHSEM picked up the expenses to have each village represented.
“This is a way to enhance networking— to know faces in the communities and get out faces known,” Tom Koloski, DHSEM emergency management specialist said. “We need to collect information from the community and this is a great way to do it.
“We have learned as much from the community representatives as they have from us,” he said.
Representatives experienced and contributed to workshops on topics that included oil spill response in small communities, a Small Community Disaster discussion, Local Emergency Planning Committee description and duties, concerns about increased vessel traffic, NOAA and National Weather Service products for small communities, lessons learned by small communities in recent disasters, Nome volunteer agencies supporting fire, ambulance, Search and Rescue, and Small Community Emergency Response Plan, SCERP for short.
Incorporated communities are developing SCERP manuals as tool kits for local incidents for reference guides to use before, during and after an emergency or disaster. The SCERP booklet, bound in red, contains checklists for critical actions at the local level, individualized and customized for each community.
The SCERP follows response protocols by prioritizing “LIP”— Life and Safety, Incident Stabilization, and Protection of Property and Environment.
Community representatives received a SCERP toolkit booklet to help planning teams in communities draw together information to provide DHSEM so that the state agency can prepare nine SCERP booklets for each community. Seven copies will go back to the community, one will be kept by Search and Rescue at the Alaska State Troopers and one copy will go to State Emergency Operations Center, or SEOC.
A SCERP is a bridge between individual preparedness and regional emergency plans. Preparedness begins at the local level, as some times weather will keep regional and state responders out of the affected area for a longer time than it would take to meet the emergency.
Preparation for emergencies begins at home.
“Every incident happens at the local family level,” said Brett Schimmack, DHSEM facilitator for the SCERP work time on the agenda. “The SCERP has numbers and people to call and immediate actions to take.”
Small communities may not have the same set of plans and resources that larger entities have. They may lack protection for critical infrastructure. A long recovery process can disrupt community life.
Most disasters have a rapid onset with little warning, Schimmack said. DHSEM wants to help small communities get prepared to act on their own before imported help arrives.
“Our goal is to work ourselves out of a job,” he said.
A step to this end is for communities to have seven of the red SCERP binders around town in different places known to volunteers. Thus the SCERP collection of check lists, contacts, maps procedures and priorities drawn up by the community response team are accessible rather than have only one or a few people know them.
Volunteers are invaluable, Donna Barr, mayor of Shishmaref said. “Officials may turn over and change, but we have volunteers with ongoing knowledge on our phone lists,” she said.
How to get started?
Step One—Create a planning team. Be sure to involve youth, elders, Search and Rescue members. Invite the school administration to clear the way for use of the school as shelter.
Steps Two and Three—Download and complete the DHSEM “tool kit” with which the team can develop local response information and procedures.
Now the team can get started on the tool kit. Gather together. Call a meeting with the city and village council, the school, clinic, utility officials, and any other community members to discuss threats, review emergency preparation in place, contact DHSEM or Incident Command System Training.
Review or develop plans—communication, evacuation and shelter plan, protection and insurance on essential facilities, and debris management plan.
Inform the community. Ensure that the community is aware of primary and secondary shelters and evacuation routes prior to a disaster. Remind residents to take steps to protect home and property. Put together an emergency kit. Have ways to notify folks in remote locations.
Get a customized plan. Use gathered information, along with local contact data to complete the SCERP toolkit.
When the toolkit is complete, send it to DHS and EM Planning, P.O. Box 5750, JBER, AK 99505-5750.
Call 907-428-7084 with questions.