Mesquite Fire Chief Jayson Andrus summed up a discussion he led with public and private organizations to discuss emergency preparations and management when he said, “It’s not a big deal until it is.”
Chief Andrus started having meetings with Mesquite Police Department and other city departments last year to discuss procedures the city would take when an emergency descends upon the Virgin Valley area. That could be anything from a flood to a power outage and beyond.
Now he’s branching out and bringing in private organizations who not only may be affected but who can also help first responders, residents, guests, and government entities deal with the situation.
Representatives from the state, county, Eureka Casino, Overton Power District, Southwest Gas, Salvation Army, the schools, Red Cross, Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Mesa View Regional Hospital came together to first acquaint themselves with the other people but also to communicate their organizational efforts to prepare for emergencies.
“Emergency management is one of those ‘black hole’ areas where you can spend all your time preparing for hypotheticals and still have something unexpected happen,” Chief Andrus said as he brought the group up to speed about the actions his department has taken in the last year within the MFD.
“We have been working on a shelter plan for local residents for the last year,” Chief Andrus said. “The Mesquite Recreation Center is designated as the main sheltering place for private citizens with the Senior Center assisting. We will soon be asking the city council to approve purchasing back-up generators that we can use there in case of power outages or during emergencies.”
He added that after the shelter plan has been completed, his department and the city will begin working on a flood emergency plan.
Justin Luna, State of Nevada Office of Emergency Management, told the group that he was encouraged to see everyone coming together on the same page. “A lot of handling emergencies properly is to know who to call and communicate with. In after-action reports on most emergencies, communications are usually an area that always needs improvement,” Luna said.
“Everything happens locally,” he said. “The people in this room know your community better than anyone. These meetings are great to have before emergencies occur. The state will be there to support you and coordinate resources for you if they’re needed.”
Keith Buchhalter with OPD said his organization is developing emergency response plans in-house. “We have been working with the city to determine critical restoration points and priorities for power outages,” he said.
Mesa View Hospital is in the process of training 16 staff members who will be designated as the Emergency Response Team. Core activities will remain operational during any emergency, but the team will be responsible for handling any additional hospital responsibilities. The team will be trained specifically in decontamination procedures that would primarily stem from a serious vehicle crash on the interstate.
Chris Young, Eureka Casino Resort representative, said his organization is coordinating with the city to be more involved in emergency response planning. “We are improving our internal response plans to make them more comprehensive,” he said.
“As we’re seeing with emergency responses across the nation and world, we’re finding that it’s not just the public sector that is a major player,” Chief Andrus said. “We need volunteer organizations and private partners to not only respond but to also help in the recovery.”