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Are we prepared for disasters?

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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Bouchard, who also coordinates with Oakland County Homeland Security and local Oakland County municipalities and police departments, saw first hand what is needed when power grids are down, the water system is compromised, and there is a lack of central communication to the public.

"I learned at Katrina, we brought our own food, gasoline and sleeping equipment," he said. "We had everything we needed to subsist so we weren't a drain on already-strained resources. We brought from Alabama a whole tractor trailer with a complete kitchen to cook for ourselves and other first responders."

He said that not all first responders were as prepared, and it made him realize how critical it is for first responders to come to a disaster ready for anything, having planned for any eventuality, and with their own needs being met, as well as for the public's.

"We talked (with the federal government) about arranging regional teams pre-equipped and pretrained, so that as an event would unfold, you would just call on the next concentric team," he said, explaining that mobile hospitals, mobile quarters, shelters, food operations, portable water tanks, mass decontamination units, and other necessary resources would be purchased and equipped and stationed in different parts of the country. "In this way, if an emergency of one kind or another, like Florida, or that region, trained personnel and equipment could be activated. If they were overwhelmed, they could activate the next team with their resources, and so on.

"We met for a year-and-a-half with federal agencies. As often happens with the national government, they move on to the next thing," Bouchard said. "People changed jobs, administrations changed, and it just was dropped."

Locally and regionally, weather events remain the highest risk assessment for emergency managers, with the top risk concerns remaining tornadoes, lightning, high winds, snow storms, hail, flooding, and ice and sleet, Birmingham's Connaughton said. Passenger transport, with its risk of both accidents and potential hazmat situations, is the eighth biggest risk the city faces, he said.

"Snowstorms shut down roads, creates difficulties with transportation and difficulties for emergency responses as well as difficulties for seniors who have to shelter in place who may have issues with food, water and medication," Connaughton said. "Hail causes damage to automobiles, homes and to people. Flooding, we know the problems. Ice and sleet cause problems with driving and power outages."

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