When disaster strikes, who responds? And how are you notified?
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By Gretta Becay

Dodge County’s Emergency Management team was put in place by the county to help “residents, employers, schools, and others prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters and large-scale emergencies of all kinds.”

The planning that goes into this mission is enormous.

Emergency Management Director Matt Maas explained that, if printed, the Emergency Operations Plan would be between three and four inches thick.

One of the first things to consider is how to warn people in the county of the disaster, whatever it is.

The county has put into place an emergency communications network using ‘Code Red’ software. This software allows Maas - through the dispatch center - to reverse-dial telephone numbers to notify people of the threat.

As examples he used evacuation notices, bio-terrorism alerts, boil-water notices, and missing child reports.

If you have a child in school, you receive similar notifications from the schools if there is a snow day, for instance.

Through Code Red, Dodge County has the ability to notify isolated groups; for example, phone numbers with only a certain prefix, or numbers in a certain zip code or even numbers in a radius around an incident.

He stressed that this type of notification is not like weather radio where people receive forecasts. This alert is only to warn of an imminent threat.

Public media outlets are also notified.

Maas explained that the Code Red system was used in 2017 to notify nearby people of the explosion at the McNeilus plant. In the spring, people were warned of a possible threat from an ice dam on the Zumbro River near Mantorville. The dam was holding back enough water that it could have caused downstream flooding or damages to bridges if it broke up in huge chunks.

Maas works closely with local fire and rescue departments and his division keeps track of their equipment.

For example, if there is a call into dispatch for an icy-water or a grain-bin rescue, Maas and his team know which local or nearby departments have the appropriate equipment to perform the rescues.

During the winter, in a bad storm, if vehicles go off the road and wreckers or squad cars cannot get to them, Maas knows which departments have the appropriate vehicle to get the people to safety.

If someone is lost, he knows who has a drone to help with the search.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg of Maas’s duties.

Maas also has readiness plans for the following:

  • Mass inoculations, quarantines, collaborating with public health.
  • Animal flu threats; stopping the flow of animals through the county.
  • If there’s a big fire and more than one department responds; who’s in charge? How are firefighters and rescue personnel fed and kept hydrated?
  • How does the county get FEMA aid after flooding?
  • What happens to the contaminated waste like ruined sheet rock that comes out of homes that were flooded with black water?
  • What happens if someone volunteers to help and is injured on the job?

And the list goes on.