Missouri is known for its rapid swings in weather and can go from one extreme to the other without much notice. Pulaski County's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) helps the citizens of the county when there is an emergency such as one related to the weather.
The Emergency Operations Director (EOD) is constantly monitoring weather and road conditions in Pulaski County to keep the public informed of conditions that could impact their safety and lives. As an example, in this same week, within the last 10 years, there has been snow, flooding, a tornado, and mild sunny days. Missouri weather can keep a person on their toes.
The current weather has been extremely cold and Pulaski County Emergency Management, a Facebook page operated by the EOC, has been putting information out about the extreme cold. The information includes warnings, what the wind chill is locally, and other important information from the Emergency Operations Director.
Who are the people of the EOC?
In February 2003, Lawson D. Smith, known as “Smitty” to most of the county, was appointed Emergency Operations Director ( EOD) by the then Presiding Commissioner of Pulaski County, Tony Chrisman. Gene Newkirk is the current Presiding Commissioner.
Smitty has been the director for 14 years, through ice storms, blizzards, and three floods, just to name a few.
The core group of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) are: Kerry Proffitt, Paul Slater, Joe Krill, Dan Arden and Karen Smith.
All the volunteers are NIMS (national incident management system) qualified which means they understand what the incident command structure is and how it functions during disaster, and are former firefighters and/or retired military.
City officials and law enforcement agencies all have NIMS training, too and bring their knowledge and experience to the EOC during an event.
Smitty commented, “ During an event, the Emergency Operations Director,(EOD), the Emergency Operation Center core group, mayor, commissioner, and law enforcement departments come together to work together. One event, one emergency operation center.”
During the recovery period of the 2017 flood the Daily Guide spoke with Lawson D. Smith, “Smitty” to find out what the EOC’s role is in the community.
What is the EOC?
The EOC is made up of elected officials, volunteers, and public service agencies. The mission of the EOC is to assess, identify need, and refer.
Smitty commented, “Before and during an event the EOC asks, “What is the need, what is the disaster, and what does the EOC need to do to respond to it, and mitigate and recover.”
Smitty told the Daily Guide that the EOC operation is a “collaboration of all of our training and knowledge to make a clear picture. We all come together and stand up on the response we need to do. We're all doing this.”
When does EOC activate?
The EOC activates before an Event. The Event is anything affecting the people, road and/ or traffic conditions in Pulaski County. An event could be a flood, icy roads, a parade, or the county fair.
When the EOC knows an event is imminent, they start planning 3 days out by asking:
What is the event?
When is it going to start?
Who is it going to impact?
Who is coming?
What do we need to do for preparation?
“ The Event drives the who,what, where, and when of the planning and response stage.” said Smitty.
When the EOC is active it is a one-stop operation center, a place to direct what's going on, and to bring all the entities and resources together.
“EOC is the hub. All the other entities are out there and we want to bring them together. We want to respond, mitigate and get back to normal. We respond mitigate and recover. “ Smitty said.
In April 2017, the event was the flood, the who was any residents on the Big Piney, the where was any area in Pulaski county that could be affected by rising water. The EOC responded by issuing evacuation orders and setting up a shelter
Smitty constantly monitors conditions through use of internet tools like the national weather service, USGS ( United States Geological Society) and the Missouri WEBEOC, an online tool used by EOC’ s and other emergency personnel , according to the WEBEOC website for “ sharing information and resource request tracking during emergencies,disasters, significant events and daily operations.”
Smitty told the Daily Guide the community can be more proactive and better prepared for emergencies such as floods by having or doing the following:
Keep Flood insurance up to date
Have ready to go emergency supplies for your family and pets.
Have an emergency preparedness kit for your home and car. Include medication and seasonal appropriate items
Heed Early warnings
Listen to weather reports
Observe the conditions in your area
Be prepared to respond to a forecast by National Weather Service
In closing, Smitty said, “Stay prepared.”