OpenCDA

December 15, 2015

Tonight’s Assessment of Windstorm-2015

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: — Bill @ 8:11 am

KVNIThe meeting agenda posted online last Friday for the Tuesday, December 15 Coeur d’Alene City Council meeting includes this presentation:  “Windstorm Update – Police Chief White and Fire Chief Gabriel.”

Monday’s Coeur d’Alene Press skewspaper article headlined Police chief to speak on wind storm response suggests that unlike the usual self-congratulation Coeur d’Alene officials like to heap upon themselves, tonight’s comments from two competent and professional public safety leaders will offer objective evaluation and constructive recommendations for improving our community’s responses in an emergency.

We hope that Mayor Widmyer and the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners watch and listen.  Intently and humbly.

Our earlier posts concerning the county’s response to the windstorm were less than complimentary about the failed performance of county elected officials.  In particular we faulted the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners, because it and only it had the authority to first make the decision and then inform the Director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) that the OEM’s services were not needed and that the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) did not need to be activated.  Fortunately, that decision was rescinded.

Monday’s Press article included this attributed to Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer:

“We probably could have been out front with more communications,” Mayor Steve Widmyer said Friday. “We could have given more updates on social media.”

He said the city needs to find a way to communicate with all of its citizens during a major weather event like that. Because of the storm, power was lost, utility lines were down in streets, traffic was blocked, and trees were falling on homes and vehicles.

“Just to give them an idea of what’s going on,” the mayor said.

OpenCdA wonders, Mr. Mayor, that when “… power was lost, utility lines were down in the streets, traffic was blocked, and trees were falling on homes and vehicles,” do you really want someone driving in the dark approaching the dark intersection of Government Way and Appleway or blasting up 4th Street after too many  shooters at one of the downtown bars thumb-diddling his smartphone to find the City’s Facebook page or Twitter account for emergency information and updates?  Are you out of your freakin’ mind, Mr. Mayor?

And Mr. Mayor, the citizens need more than just “… an idea of what’s going on.”  We need regular and maybe continuous, timely, accurate information.   An occasional press release sent to the Spokane skewsmedia which may or may not have any interest in what happens in Kootenai County and Coeur d’Alene simply isn’t enough.  Neither is an occasional two-minute (or less) Emergency Alert System blurb.  The purpose of public information is to timely inform the public with useful, actionable information, not just allow somebody to check off a block on a checklist.  Timely, accurate, complete information calms and reassures most people.  You have the equipment in place for a local radio station, KVNI.  Talk with the KXLY Group management and engineer about using it effectively to inform citizens.

We are encouraged to read that Police Chief Lee White indicated he wants the City to work better and more cooperatively with Kootenai County’s emergency management officials.  We completely agree that working cooperatively without sacrificing local operability is not only possible, it is essential.

As we said in an earlier post, we hope that as a minimum, our city and county elected officials will complete FEMA Course G0402: Incident Command System Overview for Executives and Senior Officials, ICS 402. (This course is scheduled to be available in Coeur d’Alene  on January 21, 2016.)  If city and county executives and senior officials are going to be involved in making decisions or evaluating ones recommended by the County’s OEM Director and local incident commanders, they ought to have some idea of what’s going on.

We also hope that the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners will take much more seriously the important role of the Kootenai County Office of Emergency Management.   It is indisputable that cooperation and coordination between governmental agencies as well as with nongovernmental organzations will result in fewer lives lost, fewer injuries, less property damage, lower economic losses, and faster restoration of essential services.  But for that kind of cooperation and coordination to occur, all of the agencies and NGO’s and most importantly, the public, must have confidence that the decisions being made are timely and informed and being made by qualified, trained public officials.   There is much more to emergency planning and management than filling out the forms required for post-emergency economic relief from federal and state government.

4 Comments

  1. I hope that I am wrong but I kind of got the impression that the Chiefs did not want anyone messing with their kingdoms.
    No one can argue that getting the word out with no power is difficult, that is why you use every means possible, almost everyone I know has a battery operated radio at home or a car radio if you’re on the road.
    I know I used my radio to get info with no luck.
    I guess what I am saying is I was not overly impressed with the debriefing.

    Comment by Mike Teague — December 16, 2015 @ 11:45 am

  2. LOL. I understood the power was out without hearing any news reports.

    Comment by LTR — December 17, 2015 @ 7:42 am

  3. Mike,

    Did you watch or attend the Coeur d’Alene City Council meeting on December 15th? If you did, what led you to draw the impression you posted on December 16 at 11:45 a.m.? I watched the Council meeting and have replayed the Chiefs’ after-action report presentation twice, and from that I concluded that the City’s departments, particularly Fire, Police, and Streets, worked impressively closely and cooperatively.

    It was very clear from the Council meeting that it was the City of Coeur d’Alene that pushed the County into opening the EOC, but that only occurred (according to the skewspaper) after the OEM Director had first talked with the Sheriff and the BOCC and they had concluded she could go home without activating the EOC. That causes me to wonder, whom had the BOCC and Sheriff and EOC Director spoken with before making that decision? Was it an informed decision or one made with insufficient information?

    This proved to be an extended duration, region-wide civil emergency. My concern is that because it was not also a mass casualty emergency, our County government may not have taken it as seriously as it should. After watching the CdA City Council meeting Tuesday night, I’m convinced that CdA’s Police, Fire, and Streets Departments did take it seriously. They not only worked cooperatively, but they learned from the event and are already working to be better prepared for future emergencies. I hope there will be an effort in Coeur d’Alene to involve all City departments in the emergency planning for the sake of continuity of government. To their credit, Chiefs Gabriel and White both want the City to be represented in the EOC and they want the EOC to be represented in the City’s MACC. That adds effectiveness and efficiency to the mutual aid agreements, and it helps ensure everyone is getting the information they need to make the best decisions and recommendations possible.

    Comment by Bill — December 17, 2015 @ 8:45 am

  4. LTR,

    True, but at Tuesday night’s CdA City Council meeting, Chiefs White and Gabriel were both concerned that one of the areas which needs improvement is getting information out to the public. Timely dissemination of relevant information before an emergency is a lot more than just an occasional press release sent to the news media. That’s also true of actionable information needed during an emergency. One of the real benefits of timely, factual, relevant information dissemination is that if the citizens are aware of it and know they can rely on it, they won’t feel the need to do something inappropriate like tie up 9-1-1 asking questions.

    Comment by Bill — December 17, 2015 @ 8:55 am

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