Saline Prepares For Worst And Hopes For The Best


The job of the police, firefighters, and medical services is to hope as hard as they can that they won’t ever be needed, but always be ready to leap into harm's way and save people whenever they are. But just what Saline’s emergency services are supposed to do whenever the worst happens was codified in the Emergency Action Plan that City Council passed at its January 24 meeting.

“The general point of the Emergency Action Guidelines is to establish a procedure of how we would mitigate any sort of disaster. It’s an all hazards plan,” Saline Police Chief Jerrod Hart told the Sun Times News. “Early on in my career people would try to draft a plan for what we would do if we had flooding … if we have a tornado … if we have a dam break or an active killer somewhere. These plans are designed to give general direction and oversight of how to handle a myriad of disasters that may occur in my community.”

This sets up a clear series of steps of response for all public employees for what the City will do if the city suffers a tornado, or if there is a massive fire, or a nuclear event. Some parts of the plan are confidential, such as what to do should there be a mass shooting.

“It establishes very specific protocols and guidelines in terms of how we, as an organization, respond to an emergency situation. All of the appropriate names and corresponding contacts are provided within the document,” Mayor Brian Marl said. Marl added that he and Hart had been discussing updating the previous plan of this for years “because it dated from 2007. This was a task that required a significant amount of time and energy. That’s why I applauded the Chief for his efforts because this is a solid plan. Moving forward, our commitment needs to be to update it substantively every four or five years.”

Saline’s emergency services will now use the National Incident Management System, or NIMS, which is a part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that helps localities coordinate and prepare for the worst, to implement the plan.

The plan focuses primarily on the training and roles for first responders. Other city staff will be involved in some roles in some capacities through administrative staff and will be trained virtually during the normal course of their day to day duties, according to City Manager Colleen O’Toole.

“It’ll be done during the normal course of operations. A good chunk of our administrative staff, public works staff; even members of Council will have to take basic level NIMS training … just so they understand their role in an emergency. Because the plan dictates everybody’s responsibility down to even our accounts payable clerks,” O’Toole said.

Non-first responders’ roles will be limited. But administrative staff may be utilized to coordinate the City’s response in a dire emergency. Employees from the Department of Public Works may also be used to turn off power or water in an emergency involving infrastructure.

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