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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Expansion of emergency council proposed

Mayor Al McWilliams, Muhlenberg exec Fred Hipp and
Plainfield Health Officer Jadwiga Warwas consult during
Plainfield's 2005 Bioterrorism Preparedness Exercise.

A proposed expansion of Plainfield's Local Emergency Management Council is up for first reading at Monday's Council meeting.

The proposed expansion (MC 2015-06) is a welcome sign that Director Riley and the Mapp administration are taking seriously the task of preparing Plainfield and Plainfielders for possible future emergency events.

It has now been ten years since the City and Union County conducted a joint "table-top" emergency preparedness exercise. One of the results of that experience was that the City was to develop an emergency management plan -- parts of which were to be publicly promoted to prepare residents for unexpected emergencies.

For some examples of public portions of emergency management plans, see Anchorage, Alaska (here), Myrtle Beach, SC (here), Sullivan County, NY (here), and the state of Oregon's manual for preparing a disaster plan (here).

Unfortunately, that project slept throughout the Robinson-Briggs years, and the impact of Superstorm Sandy showed it by bringing the City to a standstill.

Police, fire and public works employees labored mightily to clear streets, restore services and check on residents' safety, but there were gaps in communications and confusion about where and how to get help.

Strides have been made since the Mapp administration took the reins -- for one thing, the city has adopted several emergency communications avenues that deliver alerts to residents' cellphones or email inboxes. That will be an invaluable assist in future emergencies.

Director Riley has also made use of the surplus military equipment program to provide the city with vehicles and other equipment that will be useful in emergencies.

The proposed ordinance will provide more structure to handle emergencies by expanding the present four-member commission (police, fire, IT and City Clerk representatives) to an expanded 11-member group.

The larger group will also include representatives from Health, Public Works, the Board of Ed, PMUA, Plainfield Rescue Squad, and the Mayor's and City Administrator's offices.

My only suggestion is that the Council may want to consider amending lthe ordinance to add a Council designee to the mix.

This is a solid move forward. Let's hope the Council agrees.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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