Training a focus of second quarterly Disaster and Emergency Services meeting

Apr. 30—Sometimes it takes a village to respond to an emergency — more than just the agencies regularly tasked with doing so.

The second of a series of quarterly meetings designed to bring together all the entities tasked with helping Pulaski stay safe was held Tuesday at the Pulaski County Courthouse.

Known as the DES — Disaster and Emergency Services — organization meeting, representatives from various agencies gathered to discuss how to better work together with Don Franklin, Pulaski County's Director of Emergency Management.

The key topic for this meeting was emergency support functions (ESF), which Franklin described as 15 primary areas of attention for any particular jurisdiction.

Those include transportation; communications; public works and engineering; firefighting; emergency management; mass care, emergency assistance, housing and human services; logistics management and resource support; public health and medical services; search and rescue; oil and hazardous materials response; agriculture and natural resources; energy; public safety and security; long-term community recovery; and external affairs.

"All of those (areas) have particular assignments that go with them," said Franklin. He noted that the goal is to get different agencies to carefully consider which ESF they'll be involved in should a crisis occur.

"That doesn't necessarily mean that that's always going to be what they're involved in, because very few incidents are (about) one issue; they always cascade, there are always multiple issues," said Franklin. "If you've got a wreck on the interstate or on U.S. 27, then you're going to have EMS, you're going to have law enforcement, you're going to have fire for traffic control, you may have (the Rescue Squad) for extrication.

"So it's not a one-man show," he continued. "What we're doing, just trying to identify people's lanes and try to cut down (on situations where) there are 400 trucks and two people working. I don't mean that to be derogatory, but it's just a fact that sometimes we have more people and equipment there than is really necessary, and some of these people aren't trained to do what needs to be done."

To help with that dilemma, Franklin said that would be a focus on identifying training needs, to help those individuals responding in different agencies do what they need to do or increase their capabilities to do more at a scene.

"Let's say we've got straight-line winds or a tornado or severe thunderstorms," said Franklin. "If an ambulance gets called out, the ambulance may not be able to make it to where they need to be due to the debris in the road. So who's going to cut those trees out of the road?

"Well, the fire department has typically been doing it; sometimes the road department helps," he added. "But what we're working on now is getting some help from some of these local loggers."

Franklin noted that one party has identified as many as five different local logging groups that have expressed a willingness to help.

"These guys do it for a living; they've got the equipment and they've got the know-how," said Franklin. "Do all of our firefighters know how to properly run a chainsaw? I don't know. ... Have we had the required training to be able to say, 'Yes, we can do this based on this standard.'"

The idea is not just protecting the county and its citizens, said Franklin, but also the responders themselves.

"We don't want any of our responders being a casualty of their response," he noted. "Getting them the right training, getting them the right equipment, getting the right organization so that the right people are at the scene is the direction we're trying to go."

Franklin said that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has seven training consortiums, and also noted there is the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium at The Center for Rural Development, so multiple options for training are available.

"Once we identify what the capabilities each department are or what they would like to be, then we can set up training to either solidify their capabilities now or create new capabilities through new training and equipment," said Franklin.

One key is getting people who are available at different times during the day, depending on what shift they work, to be able to help out; "Most of our response here is volunteer, and where we hurt is (in the scenario) of fires during the day; we just don't have anybody to respond," said Franklin. "Nobody can schedule (a fire)."

He added, "We need to ... get people to desire to be part of this (and how) they can join these response agencies that is atypical of what they currently do. ... We need to start making ways to promote this and help people who want to be part of it (and) give them the ability to be part of it."

Franklin felt the meeting went well, and noted that getting the information out about DES and what's being discussed is important.

"I want the county to know that we're working to make things better for them," said Franklin.