During the month of June, Barton County Emergency Management Director Amy Miller completed reports and improvement plans following two exercises she attended.
The first exercise was the Central Kansas Public Health Tornado Terror tabletop exercise that included several Central Kansas counties, Miller said. The scenario was directed toward public health departments and their response to a realistic set of issues – loss of power, communication with staff, communication with emergency management and other emergency responders, and the ability of the department to provide services after a severe weather event.
Several items were identified for corrective actions and submitted as part of the Improvement Plan for Barton County Emergency Management. The second exercise Improvement Plan was developed for the Larned State Hospital Hostage-Riot tabletop exercise. Areas noted for improvement were mapping capabilities and communications.
“Exercises are an important part of emergency planning not only for emergency response agencies, but also for businesses, schools, hospitals and government agencies,” Miller said. “Tabletop exercises simulate an emergency situation in an informal, stress-free environment.”
Participants discuss response procedures, resources needed and resolve problems for the particular scenario that has been chosen. “It provides an excellent venue to review policies and procedures with the guidance of a facilitator,” she said.
Tabletop exercises also provide emergency plan response and reviews without the cost of a full-scale exercise, where agencies respond as if the scenario were an actual event.
On a related mater, on June 5, Miller attended Emergency Operations Plan Training for Kansas Schools at the central office for Unified School District 431 in Hoisington. Dr. Bob Hull, director of Kansas Safe and Prepared Schools, lead the training.
The session reviewed the basic elements of a school emergency plan and discussed the importance of school safety and preparedness, barriers for developing plans, and understanding the expectations of the community for schools. “A school emergency is a community emergency and a community emergency is a school emergency,” Hull said.
According to Hull, in rural areas, schools provide more than education. Schools often serve as shelters, provide space for public meetings and are often the center of public activities. “Working to develop an emergency plan for schools brings together local safety officials, emergency management, and local leaders to plan together and provide a safe environment for the community’s students,” Miller said.
The training provided an opportunity to look at emergency planning from the unique perspective of schools and their needs.