'Worst case' is training focus
No one likes to think about what would happen if a tornado struck this area. Fortunately, there are people who specialize in thinking those thoughts.
On April 23, first responders from the police, public works and fire departments in Farmington, Rosemount and Lakeville got together at the Dakota Communications Center for something called a tabletop training session. They were joined by paramedics from the area ambulance services, as well as representatives from the DCC.
And they were all there, during Severe Weather Week, to talk about how they would handle an areawide severe weather event.
Farmington experienced a small scale tornado in 2010. It came through the mid-section of town, in the middle of the night. No one was hurt, but many homes received thousands of dollars in property damage. That event was handled by Farmington’s police, fire and public works departments.
But the possibility exists for a much larger scale tornado event, and there is a real possibility that such an event would affect more than one community, Farmington fire marshal John Powers said.
Last week’s tabletop training presented a scenario where all three cities were struck by the same tornado. The scenario asked participants to envision a tornado that touched down on Cedar Avenue and County State Aid Highway 50, then moved over to Pilot Knob Road and 195th Street, then followed the railroad track into Rosemount.
“It had scenarios where all three suffered some damage, and that hampered our ability to respond to some incidents, and how our operations would change during an event like that,” Powers said. “A lot of times we rely on other cities to help us in the event of day-to-day emergencies. But here we had to look at how we can best prioritize the needs across all three cities.”
The training session was open to supervisory-level personnel.
“It’s important for front line personnel to have that training because they’re the ones who are going to handle the situation until the rest of the responders arrive,” Rosemount police chief Eric Werner said.
The session caused supervisors to consider how they would handle issues like multiple structure collapses, gas leaks, and other unforeseen incidents. They discussed creating an area of command, so all three cities would be able to coordinate efforts and work together to serve the residents of each community.
“It got us all thinking about, if we have a severe weather event, how can we better respond to it and get to the citizens quicker. The whole thing was so we could be better able to respond to emergencies and be able to triage them so the people who needed help first would get it,” Powers said.
The timing for last week’s tabletop training was no accident. It was planned specifically during Severe Weather Week as a way to help communities prepare for such an event.
“This was an opportune time to have that tabletop because we’re coming into that season. Ultimately, we’re going to be better prepared if there is ever that type of incident,” Werner said.
The training session was a project of the Dakota County Domestic Preparedness Committee, which was formed over a decade ago, subsequent to the 911 attacks, Werner said. The Domestic Preparedness Committee plans several types of training sessions each year.