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Commission OKs emergency plan
However, officials hope it will never be used
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Shown is an aerial view of a farm flattened by the May 2017 tornado that ripped through Barton County. The county’s Emergency Operations Plan approved by commissioners Monday outlines how officials respond to such emergencies. - photo by Tribune file photo

A lot of effort goes into Barton County’s Emergency Operations Plan, an effort county officials hope never has to be tested.

“I really appreciate all the work that goes into this.” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. “I hope we never find out how much work is in there because that means we are going to be in a disaster.”

Schartz was addressing Barton County Emergency Manager Amy Miller Monday morning. Miller had come before the commission seeking approval for the updated emergency plan. 

The Kansas Planning Standards provide the requirements for Kansas Division of Emergency Management approval of county emergency operations plans, Miller said. As per state statutes, approval requirements for the basic plan, all emergency support functions, appendixes, and specific annexes be reviewed and reapproved by KDEM every five years. 

Miller said Barton County Emergency Management submitted an plan to KDEM in December 2018, and received approval, pending formal adoption by the Barton County commissioners.

Now that the approval has taken place, the plan will be sent to KDEM and become official.

But, nothing is perfect, Miller said.

“Where as these are guidelines on how we are going to coordinate, all of that varies from day to day,” she said. It is just a basic structure for us to take and utilize and guide us in that response.

“But you cannot plan for everything that can happen in a disaster and an emergency,” she said. “You just have to have a good plan and lots of practices and exercises, and people who are willing to work together and go the extra mile to do whatever needs to be done.” 

“I’m glad we are as prepared as we can be for a disaster situation,” said commission Chairwoman Alicia Straub.

“It’s a lot of hours,” Miller said. But, “they are extremely well spent. It also allows us to think ‘what if?’ and that goes a long ways an being prepared does as well.” 

The process

State statutes require each county to establish disaster agency, Miller said. That agency is the keeper of disaster, or emergency, plan.  

“We are at the end of our five years from the previous approval of the Emergency Operations Plan,” she said. Miller spent last summer and fall combing through the plan, reviewing it and updating it, and entering into a statewide data base mandated by state officials.

Each of Kansas’ 105 counties must have a plan in order to receive any kind of grants any federal disaster assistance. 

She also recieved input from other county departments and officials, and other organizations

Then it was up to the KDEM, which is short staffed and “terribly behind and overwhelmed.”

In addition, counties are on staggered plan approval schedule, Miller said. But the upgrade to the new state data base six years ago has collapsed that schedule.

It takes a minimum of two and a half days for approval. For some counties, it can take as long as five days