Editor’s note: The News asked Bryan County Communications Director Matthew Kent to provide readers a “county’s-eye” view of the April 5 tornado that hit North Bryan. This is part 3.
By Matthew Kent, Bryan County
The Mit/Prep from the April 5, 2022 Tornado The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lays out four phases of emergency management: Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. Bryan County follows these steps when any disaster happens, on any scale. Much of the work is behind the scenes and each action has the goal of life safety and the protection of property.
The mitigation and preparedness phases are hopefully the longest of all the phases. This is the time between the recovery and the next disaster, before we start all over again with response. Mitigation is the process of rebuilding or improving in such a way that would prevent this from happening again. In this case, we can install stronger windows or use stronger roof tie downs, but it is hard to predict what damage a pop-up tornado will do or the path it will take. Mitigation for something like a hurricane is much easier. We know that we will most likely experience storm surge, so for example, cleaning out canals to hold the water or reinforcing stream banks to prevent erosion can take place all year long. We will do everything within our power and budget to build back better in case a tornado touches down in the future.
While mitigation is boots on the ground correction and prevention, preparedness is planning how to respond better next time. In the near future, responders will get together for a hot wash. In a hot wash, we can talk about what went right and what went wrong in our response in order to improve. Those comments will be included in the After Action Report, which outlines potential changes for our Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).
This EOP is hundreds of pages that cover all four phases of any disaster response whether natural or manmade. It sets up guidelines for response, lines of authority, and provides forms and checklists to follow in the middle of an emergency. The EOP is not a rigid set of rules, but is flexible for any kind of emergency response. The EOP is frequently updated, not only when disasters happen, but also when new equipment is bought or when staff gains new skills.
The After Action Report also gives insight into what equipment or skilled personnel we are lacking for a complete response. We may not need to buy this equipment or attend training. It might be more cost efficient to collaborate with a nearby county or city that already has the ability.
The preparedness phase is also where we work out agreements with other cities and counties for evacuation locations and sheltering, change internal county policies for storm response, and plan to improve for any future disasters.
These changes happen frequently, all year long. An Emergency Operation Plan is never final, but is updated as much as possible for right now. Until the next response to an emergency or until the next good idea.
This completes the four phases: Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. This process is a never-ending circle with the hopes of improving response and recovery each time. As Bryan County grows, it is increasing important to use this process to serve and protect residents and visitors, but hopefully it will be some time before we experience a disaster like this again.