Fort Scott, KS –
Fort Scott is the county seat for Bourbon County, also comprising of the highest population density in the county. It only makes sense the Emergency Manager (EM) would be in the center of it all. William Wallace, a 12 years FEMA veteran, is at the helm of all disaster preparedness activities happening in the county.
It’s easy for the EM position to go unnoticed during times of nice weather and everything going smoothly, much like most people live their lives. However, it’s the careful planning and mitigation of the EM that helps coordinate the emergency services during incidents that can expedite recovery efforts and more importantly save lives.
An important aspect of Wallace’s job is investigating the county and ensuring municipalities have taken important steps to mitigate against potential disaster that could occur in the county. Wallace’s office keeps close tabs with Topeka and FEMA Region 7 in assessing threats and solutions for Bourbon County. Mitigation may include fortifying current systems, such as electrical, to ensure a more expedited return of power. Another great example, just as this article is being written, the CDC has just announced the first case of the Ebola virus in the US. This is an issue where the EM may consult with the county health department to ensure we have a strategy should action need to be taken.
“Another big job in emergency management is the facilitation of all emergency services,” Wallace said. “I knew we had an excellent team after the tornado incident in April,” commented Wallace. Inter-agency cooperation during an incident is a critical component to ensure effective and efficient response and recovery. “Relationships and communication are a key component to ensure this happens,” Wallace said. During the relationship building process is something known in the emergency field as ‘exercises.’ These can range from simple discussion based “tabletop exercises” to a full scale disaster exercise. Wallace mentioned they try to have as many exercises during the year as possible without disrupting the daily responsibilities of the emergency service personnel.
Wallace also has an interest in increased communication within the county during times of disaster. They are launching a new alert system called CodeRED, you can read more about it here. Just as the EM is responsible for mitigation on a county level, he is also concerned about families taking steps in preparedness within their home. The emergency service will work tirelessly during a disaster to reach families and ensure safety. However, Wallace highly recommended families take some basic steps to increase each family’s preparedness. His top three recommendations for preparedness are:
- Be ready to sustain your family for a minimum of 48 hours. This includes: water, food (not requiring heat), power (batteries) and adequate clothing and shelter
- Communication plan. This includes family, extended family, cell phones, phone chargers, etc. Make a plan on how you are going to be able to communicate and when, during a disaster. For example, during a disaster cell phones maybe tied up, but you can send text or try calling, but should only try calling at designated times to preserve cell battery. Or if you are close enough, arrange meeting places.
- Pay attention to media. It’s important to be able to access the latest communication the EM is sending out. This could be through radio, television or CodeRED. However you choose, it’s a good idea to have a back-up and check batteries periodically to make sure they are still working.
Wallace also discussed the possibility of working with the Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. CERT is a nationally recognized program that aims to provide citizens with some basic preparedness and organizational training to respond to local disasters. There is a wealth of information online if community members are interested in learning more about preparedness and mitigating disasters, including FREE online FEMA courses.
For more information about Bourbon County Emergency Management:
210 S. National Ave.
Fort Scott, KS 66701