JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
With the potential of severe spring weather on the way to Mid-Missouri, emergency management departments are looking over plans to make adjustments as needed.
After the EF-3 rated tornado that tore through Jefferson City in May of 2019, Cole County emergency leaders put together an “after-action report,” detailing areas of improvement and successes of the response, which is standard for all emergency operations.
In the document obtained by ABC17 News, many of the details that needed improvement according to the former emergency coordinator were about the Emergency Operation Center (EOC).
Other issues revolved around communication and coordination of volunteers. The suggestion includes a centralized social media strategy and daily briefings with leaders at the EOC.
The report also states radio communication as an issue, saying that several agencies didn’t have the ability to communicate over certain channels, or those that did have it individuals were unable to locate them on their radios.
The current emergency coordinator Sierra Thomas took over the role after the tornado and said the notes were a “wealth of information.”
“I noticed one of the big things we were lacking was communication and interoperability within communication,” Thomas said.
Because of that assessment, Cole County was able to purchase mobile video communication platforms for all of the local partners like police, fire and other entities.
“In the event that I can’t get to say JCPD, or public works can’t get to the Mayor’s office, we can all still interact, and there will also be some great upgrades happening to our main EOC at the Jeff City Police Department,” Thomas said. “And all of that, honestly, stemmed from what was lacking during the tornado.”
The new system was purchased using various funding streams, including CARES Act funding, as it allowed agencies to communicate during the pandemic and remain socially distant.
Along with the tornado, Thomas said the COVID-19 pandemic was another emergency that taught many lessons of the importance of communication between city, county and agency leaders.
“We were able to build a better rapport with each other,” Thomas said. “If something smacked us in the face, for lack of a better word, like a tornado or another disaster, I know who to call, people have my number.”
“Whatever comes our way, clearly we’ve been able to show that we will get through it together,”
Boone County Emergency Plans
The Boone County Office of Emergency Management is also consistently changing plans after events inside and outside the area.
Planning & Preparedness Specialist Sherril Gladney said the emergency plans are reviewed annually around this time of year by staff and partners to see if any changes need to be implemented in the plans.
After the Jefferson City tornado in May of 2019, Gladney said Boone County’s plan didn’t change drastically because of the event, but those are learning experiences for all the mutual aid partners.
“Each individual agency that responded to assist Jefferson City, probably looked at some of their processes – what went well when they were down there, what may be needed some tweaking,” Gladney said.
She says the plan is constantly evolving as technology changes and events happen.
“We are always looking at our plan, and whether or not something we saw from our neighbors, or somewhere else in the state or somewhere else in the country, whether or not that applies to how we would do business,” Gladney said. “That is really an ongoing process.”
Two of the top items that are constantly looked at for improvement are technology and communication practices. Gladney said as technology evolves, things like mapping become more useful and become a part of the plan.
On-scene communication is key to a successful response to an emergency, and Gladney said communication is always on the top of the list for review after an event.
“How were resources set, dispatched and notified? How did the communication go for that? Was it effective? Are there things we could do better, faster, more clearly, more efficiently,” Gladley explained as some of the questions that are asked after an event.
The best way to prepared for a major storm event is to have a plan, Gladney said. She said being prepared for anything when you are at home, in your car, or at work/school can be the difference between life and death.
“Personal preparedness is very important, because when that event hits the first thing you are going to have to do is take care of yourself and your family,” Gladney said.
There are resources on the Boone County Emergency Managements website about how to prepare for a spring storm.
Watch ABC17 News at 9 and 10 for a full report.