The Roundup -

Preparing for Disaster


October 18, 2017 | View PDF

Debra Gilbert, the Director of Emergency Services for Richland County, in the central planning area for disaster response.

Richland County's Emergency Planning Committee met to discuss possible disaster scenarios for local resources and the response of various agencies at noon on October 10, 2017. Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) has many Community Members and meets monthly to discuss Emergency Planning and update one another on vulnerabilities and possible solution.

Debra Gilbert, who serves as the Richland County Director of Disaster and Emergency Services (DES), posed a question to those handling local water supplies.

"On the emergency response portion of the plan, we've talked about the identification of possible disruption threats. I see that vandalism, like what just happened at Crow Agency – is that something that we need to look at? Is that something that could happen here?"

Jason Elletson, with the Sidney Water Department, responded, "It's always a possibility for a vandal. There's no alarms of any kind. None of that is in place." Elletson continued, "It would take an entrance alarm [to warn us], and that's probably the biggest threat to any public water system. It's a pretty important thing. If anyone wants to damage they can. This is why we have to be vigilant and monitor our sites."

Dan Murphy, with the City of Fairview, explained that there have been several close calls with the city water supply over the summer. Murphy told the agency officials, "We had a couple electrical issues, and we didn't know about it until it was almost too late. Everyone knows that if your tanks get too low, you're facing a very uphill battle, and we almost had that happen several times. Now, we have a system in place that will let me know if something is not working properly."

Murphy also spoke about the need for backup generators. Murphy said, "We have discussed generators several times in our council meetings. We have a temporary system in place where we could get a generator from a local company if we need it. We haven't had to do that except once, when one of our wells went down last winter. But as far as a permanent one, no. That has not come into fruition yet."

Gilbert asked if it was a possibility to apply for Homeland Security grants for a generator or for more monitoring services at the water treatment plants, and Murphy responded, "It is something to look at. We all know there's only so far a system would take you. It would be nice to have one. I would say it's definitely necessary."

Rural Fire Chief, Rob Gilbert, gave an update for the department. He explained, "We're about all moved into the new fire hall. We have fire prevention tours starting soon, and it's been pretty slow as fires go."

Brenda Kringen of the Sidney Health Center described various precautionary matters regarding water quality, saying, "At the beginning of June, the government said we had to create a water safety program because they were worried about legionella. So, we designed that with the safety officer of engineering and we've tested all of our water...and we used aqua-swabs that measure bacteria load and they all passed."

Kringen continued, "We are doing a full-scale evacuation of the nursing home on November 7. We'll be including DES because there are only so many resources available for special needs or nursing home residents."


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