So, by now everyone knows about the Active Shooter Full Scale Exercise we had here on August 20, 2019. After a meeting between Mark and Sam to review events in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and on scene with the new Benton County Emergency Communications (Em Comm) trailer and our BC MO CERT at Lincoln High School, we’re ready to review our actions, strengths, and things we need to work on for you!
One of the things many people don’t understand is what an EMA does and where it fits in the picture. An Emergency Management Agency, or EMA, is basically a big logistics firm and information hub. When emergencies happen which overwhelm our first responders and resources, the EMA is activated by one or more commissioners of the county to bring in and keep track of additional personnel and resources. If the county EMA is overwhelmed, the State Emergency Management Agency, or SEMA, is called to help. If the event or emergency is big enough, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, may even be called.
In situations which seem small, such as an active shooter in a single school, there are an incredible number of resources and responders used. For an Active Shooter scenario, the BC MO EM would be used as an information hub as well as its primary role of logistics. The BC MO EM would activate our own volunteer organizations (i.e. BC MO CERT and BC ARES) in the recovery phase of an event to help with tracking students and parents, passing messages from the scene to the EOC, and contacting other volunteer agencies such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army to assist with keeping people calm and comfortable in the aftermath of the event prior to the time when they would be allowed to go home. We would also be in contact with first responders, mental health councilors, the Benton County Health Department and more, coordinating efforts to keep things flowing, i.e. “Managing” the event.
With all of that being said, we experienced some really positive things and we discovered some things we will be working to improve in our plan to aid the county for events such as the Active Shooter exercise.
We’ll start with the EOC. This year, we were fortunate to have the presiding commissioner, Steve Daleske, in the EOC, as well as Linda Viebrock from the Benton County Health Department. We also had representatives from the BC ARES present to run and pass messages to and from the EOC, dispatch, and the Em Comm trailer, if needed.
Our strengths were numerous, including the ability to reach area partners, volunteers, and others who would be needed if the scenario should ever occur, being co-located with Benton County Central Dispatch, having communications resources, BC MO CERT volunteers, having a streamlined Local Emergency Operations Plan, and more! We also had a chance to test our Facebook presence by posting an example of the kind of graphic we can use to send out official updates to our followers. This is a new addition to our communication techniques and we were pleased with the performance and reach of our post!
We have some areas for improvement, including working out some kinks in our communications system, acquiring more equipment and personnel/volunteers, and gaining better contact numbers for more of our partners/resources.
For the Em Comm trailer review, please see Sam’s blog on the BC ARES website here. We are pleased with the inaugural showing the Em Comm trailer made and we are already working on plans to improve our capabilities and resources for the trailer. Thank you to the BC ARES for their efforts on the build, upkeep, and operation of the Benton County Em Comm trailer!
Our BC MO CERT members are absolutely fantastic! This is the very first county exercise they participated in and we couldn’t be more proud! Leading the charge was newly-appointed Co-Coordinator Caitlin Osborn. Her ability to manage and guide our here to fore untried CERT was admirable! Assisting her was newly-appointed Assistant Coordinator Kentton Harris, who maintained a tent, chairs, water and snacks over in staging for those who were participating in the exercise! We thank these two for their efforts! We also want to thank CERT members Joe Barnett, Marva Welborn, Madison Schietzelt, and Susan Kelb for their tremendous efforts and wonderful devotion to their team, the first responders, and the participants in the exercise!
In summary, great job to the participants, we’ll work on our shortcomings, and we hope to do an even better job at our next exercise! “Everything we do, we do it for you,” Benton County!