Neighbors helping out neighbors

HARTINGTON — County leaders are looking to the past to solve a potential problem in the future.

Cedar County could be providing assistance to other counties during an emergency or some type of disaster – or Cedar County could be receiving assistance from other counties in an emergency situation.

Plans are underway to create a mutual aid agreement between Northeast Nebraska counties, said Emergency Management Director Kevin Garvin.

According to Garvin, it makes sense for jurisdictions to be able to share resources along with the people, who are well trained in operating those resources, during times of need.

“Different counties have different pieces of equipment,” Garvin said. “Cedar County has a sonar for use in water for locating people and large objects. South Sioux City Police Department has a digital crime scene mapping kit. Wayne County has a communications trailer. These are examples of equipment each county may need at one time or another when responding to an emergency.”

Several Emergency Managers in Northeast Nebraska have attended Incident Support Training and Incident Management Training.

Garvin has completed the classroom portion for eight of the 15 courses. Field training on a live incident is still required to fully complete each course.

An Incident Management Team can respond to a wide range of emergencies which include fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, riots, spilling of hazardous materials, hurricanes, tsunami, and other natural or human-caused incidents.

A jurisdiction can become overwhelmed in a very short time during any type of natural or man-made disaster/emergency.

Many of the jurisdictions or areas within the state have small populations and members of the first response teams are composed of volunteers.

Many times, individuals serve in more than one position.

When the fires struck in western Nebraska earlier this year, there was a large demand for resources of all kinds.

“The State reported that some resources were being stretched thin at that time and that we may need to look at other alternatives should a situation arise out here,” Garvin said.

The Incident Support Teams will be fully trained and equipped so they will not be drawing any resources from the jurisdiction that needs assistance or from the limited resources from the State for the first 72 hours of the emergency.

“Contrary to popular belief, all disasters start at the local level,” Garvin said. “It may be 48 to 72 hours or more before we would see assistance from the State or Federal Government should we have something such as a wildfire or another emergency.”

Mutual aid furthers the Nebraska mentality of “Neighbors helping Neighbors” Garvin said.

Cedar County Commissioners are reviewing the proposed Mutual Aid Agreement for Northeast Nebraska.