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Are we prepared for disasters?

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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She noted that even in the summer of 2016, which was a hot dry summer, with southeast Michigan in a drought, "we were processing 518 million gallons of water a day. GLWA is able to process and deliver 600 million gallons a day, so even under the most difficult situations, we can operate.

"There is always the possibility of a situation we've never had before like in 2003, and we learned from it. We will always have lessons learned and update vulnerabilities. But we continue to exercise them and respond to lessons learned."

What worries local emergency managers the most as they plan, practice, and prepare? "I go back to the lone wolf shooter. If they don't tell anyone, it's difficult to find them and prevent an attack," said Oakland County's Tom Hardesty.

Oakland County's Kevin Schein concurs. "It hits you personally, as individuals. It's the randomness of it."

"But the response to the lone wolf, whether because of mental illness or radicalization is similar," Hardesty said. "Our first response is to stop their effort. We've been doing active shooter training with law enforcement for years. The next level is the rescue task force getting medics from EMS into what we call the warm zone. The attacker may not even be disabled. It's getting them in to treat the injured while law enforcement is working to disable the attacker.

"In Columbine, we learned we couldn't wait for the SWAT Team to go in," he continued. "One of the lessons of Aurora (Colorado, a mass shooting in a movie theater) was we had to get medical treatment in to victims. That's what rescue force does."

"A lot these days, both the threat matrix, and natural hazards," said Bouchard.

For Rochester Hills' Assistant Chief Cooke, it's a rogue driver, despite lots of preparation working with the Oakland County Sheriff's Department. "How do you really prevent that? How do you prevent a vehicle from driving into a crowd in a large event?" he asked rhetorically. "You can use police or fire vehicles to prevent it. But if you bring out concrete barriers or trucks with gravel, then what is too much? You create public uneasiness, and can deter the public from wanting to come to an event. We certainly don't want to do that. We want the public to come and enjoy events, and live a life of comfort and ease."

"What keeps me up at night? Everything," said Rochester's Cieslik. "We always have to plan for the worst and pray for the best. The city council has given us the best equipment, and we pray it just rusts away because we never have to use it. But the reality is, we do use it. So, we have to make sure people are well-trained and know how to use the equipment, and the equipment is positioned where it can be easily accessed, and they're executing our plan."

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