Message from the Chief Douglas Short of the City of Independence Fire Department concerning COVID-19:
From the Office of the Fire Chief
Over the last few days I have sat at my desk and have had sleepless nights thinking about what things I need to do to inform the public as we approach this pandemic event. As we declared a State of Emergency yesterday, it occurred to me, after 32 years in the Fire Service I know exactly what this means, however I want to be sure the public understands the process as well. While I would have to write a novel on this one, I felt it better to put a few items out at a time for patrons, families and co-workers to help them understand the gravity of the process. So, here are a few basic first steps that we as a community are going through.
What is the Local Emergency Operations Plan?
Cities, Counties, States and the Federal government try to be prepared to handle emergencies of disastrous proportions for the well-being and safety of our citizens. As for a city, we develop what are called “Local Emergency Operations Plans” or LEOP for short. These plans are generic templates that provide direction, control, organization and documentation, when a disaster strikes. They are developed to be an all-hazard template that could become more specific as the need arises. The LEOP contains “Annexes” or sections that are directed at specific task and functions of an emergency. These include Continuity of Government, Administrative, Police, Fire, Health, Water, Electric, Sheltering, Communication, Public Information and Public Health, as well as a multitude of other functions. Our City has a designated Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and Emergency Management staff that facilitate the planning and activation. While the Fire Department houses this function within the city, our Emergency Operations team consists of all of those city departments and our community partners. Upon activating the use of the LEOP, we immediately begin developing an Incident Action Plan, based on all the known issues and future contingencies. This plan not only documents the emergency, it also is a living and guiding document updated on a daily basis.
What is a State of Emergency Declaration?
Before, during or after a disaster the Mayor, through either State Statute, City Charter or Ordinance, may declare a State of Emergency to speed up any processes, physical or fiscal, to mitigate the disaster and restore order within the city. In most cases, unfortunately, an emergency declaration is made post disaster, such as after a severe storm. In some cases, it can be used proactively to have the available resources ready to go and mitigate the loss. In a disaster situation, we move way outside our normal daily operations and policy to handle the situation as prescribed in the LEOP. States of Emergency are declared generally at all levels of government. As each level makes the declaration, it opens the ability to provide more resource and fiscal help for the specific functions tasks, and recovery affected by the disaster. Being proactive in the declaration of a high probability event allows specific planning and mitigation to begin earlier, hopefully reducing the effects of the disaster.
While I know this will not answer all the questions that are out there, I hope that is a starting point for our community to understand we are continually evaluating, adjusting, organizing and taking action with utmost speed and concern for all of our well-being. In the case of this event, it is our hope that an emergency declaration will help contain the spread of this virus and limit the disruption to everyday life. More importantly, we hope it will help prevent the loss of life in our community.