MIDLOTHIAN

Disaster can strike at any time. With that in mind, Midlothian Police hope to lessen its impact with an up-to-date emergency management role and program.

The city is currently developing its own emergency action plan to directly serve residents with a goal to have the program in place within the next two years.

Midlothian Police Capt. John Spann, also the city's emergency management coordinator, stated the need for the plan came to light when an EF-3 tornado blew through northern parts of Ellis County in December 2015. According to a previous Daily Light report, winds between 145-155 mph damaged 171 homes, several churches, and one elementary school. Only two people were injured.

“Currently we work under the umbrella of the county. The county has a plan for recovery, mitigation, and everything else,” Spann said. “If we had any natural or manmade disaster we would work hand-in-hand with the county.”

Spann explained the goal is to get the city under its own emergency action plan within the next 24 months. It would outline items such as sheltering, donations, and debris management. He noted a factor driving the need for the plan is the continued growth the city is experiencing.

One of the first steps the city took was to provide officers with training in the incident command system, which helps to manage an emergency by coordinating efforts of first responders and operations.

“The incident command system is adaptable. It can be adapted for your smallest type of incident to your huge scale,” Spann explained. “They used the national incident management system for Hurricane Harvey.”

He noted this system is used effectively with tremendous success by fire departments across the country.

Spann stated if a large-scale incident happens in Midlothian that all officers would be called in to handle the emergency. He has encouraged officers to prepare their families for the worst, which could involve being on-call for 12-16 hours at a time.

The department is in the process of putting together a full-scale exercise that will test its operational skills in an emergency setting. Exercises in the past have focused on an active shooter scenario. This year’s situation would center on a weather-related type of event. Firefighters would conduct search and rescue operations and officers would have the responsibility of closing off the area, traffic control and conducting evacuations.

The department has taken steps to educate the public on how to prepare themselves and their families for an emergency, as well. Efforts have been made to push out information through the website, Nextdoor, which is a social networking service for neighborhoods.

Spann feels good about the city’s state of readiness but knows there are still a lot more steps to take.

“I would like to say that we are where we need to be but we have got a long road ahead of us to get on our plan,” Spann said. “Just for starting out we are in a good position. We are on the right path.”

Spann stated he is grateful for the help he has received to prepare Midlothian for any emergency that might arise and thanked those who have shared their knowledge and insights.

For more information about how to prepare for an emergency, visit www.knowwat2do.com. The website offers information to plan for such situations as severe weather and local hazards. Additional information about disaster planning is at www.ready.gov.