State, Local, and Tribal Officials Partner for Innovative Disaster Preparedness
OEM officials participate in course that may set model for future community response and training
More than six dozen city, county, state and tribal officials participated in a historic emergency preparedness workshop in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
The training, held Dec. 8-12 at the National Emergency Training Center and Emergency Management Institute, coincided with the one-year anniversary of the devastating December 2007 ice storm. Representatives from 20 agencies took part in the first-ever Integrated Emergency Management Course (IEMC) for Native American tribes and public and private sector officials.
City of Tulsa and Tulsa County officials participated in an IEMC in February 2004, but never has a class included both local and state government, private sector and tribal government officials. Key representatives from the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek) and Osage nations are partners in the training.
During the week-long course, the team received extensive, hands-on training, which culminated in a three-day disaster drill that involved inclement winter weather and other hazards.
During the December 2007 ice storm, nearly 260,000 Tulsa-area customers alone lost electrical service. Public schools and many businesses were closed for a week or more, and 29 Oklahomans lost their lives statewide.
Monica Hamilton, director of the City of Tulsa Mayor's Action Center, was in the Tulsa Emergency Operations Center during the 2007 storm and participated in the IEMC training. "Already we're putting to good use lessons learned during last year's ice storm. This gives us opportunity to implement new methods for serving the public, based on our past experience," Hamilton said.
Chief Deputy of the Tulsa County Board of Commissioners Paul Wilkening first conceived the idea for an integrated government/tribal training course in December 2006. Wilkening's suggestion was well received by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials. "I put the request in writing, and we heard back from them in record time,”’ Wilkening recalled. “We're honored to be part of this pilot program that may prove to be the model used nationwide."
Superintendent FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute Dr. Lawrence Cortez applauded Tulsa and tribal officials for the training initiative. "Working closely with the leadership, FEMA gains a superb training model for future courses as we work closely with the new partners involved in the safety of the residents of Tulsa, Tulsa County and the State of Oklahoma," he said.
A key to the success of the training has been each participant's willingness to work flexibly and focus on common goals. "Each of the tribes has distinct differences and is a sovereign nation, but at the end of the day governments must come together to provide for the common good," said Wilkening. "Through this exercise, we were reminded that we are more alike than different. This training allowed us to work collaboratively and uncover new opportunities to pool expertise and resources, mitigate disasters and better serve our citizens."
Participants in the IEMC included: Cherokee Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Osage Nation; Tulsa County Commissioners, Sheriff's Office, Social Services, Expo Square; City of Tulsa Mayor's Office, Public Works, Police, Fire, 211-Community Service Council; Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management; Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency; EMSA; Tulsa City-County Health Department; American Red Cross; The Salvation Army; National Weather Service; and, Public Service Company of Oklahoma.