First responders in Washington were busy in 2012 preparing for and working to prevent emergencies in the community.
The city of Washington emergency management 2012 annual report highlighted significant events throughout the year, as well as how emergency personnel and the community responded to the events.
The purpose of the emergency management plan is “To utilize effective training, planning, and coordination to continually assist with the development of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery capabilities of the Washington community for emergencies resulting from all hazards.
“The objectives are to minimize the loss of life, reduce injuries, property damage, and enhance recovery efforts made necessary during any natural, man-made or technological incident or event,” according to the report.
Fire Chief Bill Halmich is the emergency management director and Brian Boehmer, assistant city administrator, is the deputy emergency management director.
The plan features three phases, including reduction of potential loss from hazardous events, preparedness and response.
The true test to response, the report said, is how the community responds to an emergency.
Emergency disaster response stages include alerting and notification, warning, protecting citizens and property, providing for public welfare and both short term and long-term restoration.
Early in the year, several winter weather advisories were implemented, however; the weather moved through without significance.
Earthquake preparedness was stressed in January, in preparation for participation in the “Great Central Shake Out” national exercise.
On Feb. 7, the shake out was conducted and communication systems were tested.
Later in February, emergency personnel attended the state regional planning meeting in preparation for “vigilant guard exercise” to be held in the fall.
Planning for tornadoes took precedence in spring 2012. The city participated in a statewide tornado drill in mid-March.
Incident action plans for the Main Street Barbecue, Heart Walk and art fair/winefest were complied in April and May.
Beginning in early summer, the city was faced with the worst drought in 30 years, with all 114 counties declared primary natural disaster areas by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
The drought and weather conditions it caused most affected the Washington Fire Department, the report said.
To respond to the heat, a heat relief shelter was opened at the Washington Senior Center several times. Additionally, Chief Halmich requested that Mid-American Coaches placed an air-conditioned bus on notice to be used in emergency on-site heat relief.
The drought caused the American Legion public fireworks display to be canceled for the first time in 40 years.
According to the report, the decision was based on fuel moisture content information form the Missouri Department of Conservation and the site specific weather forecasts, both short and long term, from the National Weather Service.
Emergency departments were tasked with providing citizens with fire prevention information.
The Washington Fire Department participated in a state initiative to collect drought fire data by reporting to the Highway Patrol Troop Office.
Though a prescribed burn was planned for the riverfront trail, it was canceled because of the extreme drought conditions. Franklin County remains in an “abnormally dry” and “moderate” drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The report lauded prevention in Fourth of July activities, as forgoing public displays and public education yielded minimal fire responses.
“This is indicative of the conscientious, safety-minded people who live in the Washington area,” the report states.
In June and July, incident action plans were created for the Washington Jaycees demolition derby and riverfront trail days.
Plans were created for the riverfront and American Legion fireworks, however, both were canceled because of the drought. A plan was created for the Fair in late July.
The Fair brought emergency preparedness to the test, as severe weather Saturday, Aug. 4, required evacuation of the fairgrounds.
“Prior planning played a significant role in safely clearing the fairgrounds prior to the severe thunderstorm containing 60-mile-per-hour winds, which struck the area,” the report noted.
More than 5,000 people were evacuated from the fairgrounds, which were reopened the following day.
“The dedication and commitment of all those involved serve as testimony and tribute to the endeavors of a unified recovery effort,” the report said.
The fire department, in addition to committing two companies and command staff personnel, a total of 12 firefighters and officers on the fairgrounds responded to 21 incidents outside the fairgrounds caused by the storm.
After the storm, a formal after action review was conducted.
Later in August, personnel worked on an action plan for the Jaycees’ mud run. Severe weather alerts were issued as a result of Hurricane Isaac, however, Isaac moved out of the area without significance.
End of 2012
The Washington communications department benefited from new ham radios, which were approved by city council mid-September.
Chili cook-off and fall festival action plans were created at the end of the month.
In November, emergency personnel participated in vigilant guard exercises and tested communications systems.
The year ended with Washington Communications completing the last phases of the Federal Communication Commission narrowbanding requirements.
Goals for 2013 include continuing National Incident Management System compliance, as well as training employees and outside entities.
Departments will continue conducting drills and exercises to reinforce response capabilities and improve readiness and promote preparedness discussions to all facets of emergency management within the city.