Missouri disaster program created

The new management system will strive for better communication among state and federal agencies in emergency situations.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:59 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The state is adopting a new emergency management program to better prepare for natural disasters and terrorist threats.

Gov. Matt Blunt signed an executive order this week establishing the National Incident Management System. The system will act as the state’s new standard for emergency preparedness.

“This is a national communications system that ensures that, across the board, everyone is talking the same language and working on the same directive,” said Jessica Robinson, a spokeswoman for the governor.

President Bush directed the Department of Homeland Security to implement the program to coordinate efforts among federal and state agencies.

Mark James, Missouri’s public safety department director, said the system would help the state prepare for its equivalent to Hurricane Katrina: a catastrophic earthquake along the New Madrid fault line.

“Something along that line would at least equate the devastation we’ve seen down South,” James said.

All executive departments in the state must immediately incorporate the system into their emergency-preparedness plans. The system requires that every state agency use the same terminology and the same organization structure.

“This requires standardization so the law-enforcement guys can talk with the fire-responder guys who can talk to emergency managers and so forth, and we all have a common language, a common terminology and so forth,” James said.

Prior to the development of the system, each agency had its own language and structure.

“We operate one way when we are in a disaster mode, and we operate another way, more relaxed, when you are not in disaster mode,” said Susie Stonner, a State Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman. “And what the (system) is saying is we’re going to act the same way for both disasters and for regular non-disaster work so that we don’t forget how we’re supposed to respond and slip back.”

The executive order also requires that certain state agency employees meet the system’s training requirements, defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, before Oct. 1, 2006. Everyone — including county commissioners, mayors and police officers — must participate in the state training. The training includes online courses and seminars.

Stonner said the training would make people more aware of their responsibilities during a disaster.

“This will make us more efficient, because we’re going to be constantly practicing so that, when we get into a real disaster situation, we will be able to just react instantaneously,” she said.

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