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Are we prepared for disasters?

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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Cieslik said, "Just because we're in Rochester does not mean we're not necessarily immune from everything. We have plans for civil disturbances and terrorism. We have to prepare for everything. That's where the group from Homeland Security at Oakland County and Police Chief (Steven) Schettenhelm are a big part, because they keep up with law enforcement. We have to be prepared, whether it's a civil disturbance, an act of nature, or an active disturbance.

The good news/bad news is, we spend a lot of time planning for a situation and hoping we never have to use. But if we never prepare for a simple disaster, it could easily turn into a massive disaster."

While Detroit Metropolitan Airport is not directly within Oakland County's jurisdiction, "it wouldn't matter," if something happened at the airport, Detroit or in Macomb County, Hardesty said. "Our response would be the same based on what the circumstance is."

The Southeast Michigan Council of Goverments (SEMCOG), which aids in the development of the region's long-range transportation plan, works with a task force of first responders on significant traffic crashes, especially when there may be a hazmat situation causing a fire on a roadway, or a truck hits a bridge on a highway, said Carmine Palombo, deputy executive director, SEMCOG. While they have not yet been involved with terrorist preparation, their next initiative will be dealing with the resiliancy of the region's transportation system to weather events, notably with flooding after large rain events.

"We haven't had anything like Houston or Florida, but we do have significant rain events and flooding," Palombo said. "We're working with MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) on where the areas are that have the most prevalent issues, and working on what can be done to minimize flooding, on capital and maintenance projects, to lessen the impact."

Oakland County Sheriff Bouchard is someone who has experienced two of this country's most catastrophic events, having been called to action at the Twin Towers after 9/11, and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"We prepare for all risks and all hazards, not just terrorism, whether it's a mass casualty or weather events. You examine everything from every aspect," he said. "As national chairman of Major County Sheriffs of America, we talk about this all of the time, how we can coordinate equipment, communications, planning. We have a better national system than when I was asked to go to Katrina, and certainly on 9/11, but there are better ways to do that."

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