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UEMA Online Newsletter
June 2009

When Those Relationships Finally Pay Off

     Many of us wait for that fateful call to roll-up the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). We have spent countless hours working on the equipment, training on its use, developing procedures, all for the day when it is needed.

     At 5:00am on Thursday, April 30, 2009, the phone rang and Chief Carpenter said "the City Manager wants to put the EOC into operation, since there will be an announcement that Park City has the first probable case of H1N1 (Swine Flu) in the State of Utah. The media has been camped out in front of the high school since 4:00am and the school district is going to close the schools through the weekend." The new EOC had been inaugurated six weeks earlier.

      While Summit County Health Department was to eventually become the lead agency, the entire community was affected by the news. The decision of one agency, the school district, would have repercussions for Park City, including its recreation programs, parks, transit system and staff; local day care, private schools, the Chamber/Convention Bureau, local businesses, Summit County and our citizens at large.

      Granted there were some hiccups, but fortunately this was a slow moving incident. What became very clear early on was that the relationships we had developed over the past few years were going to pay off in spectacular fashion. We knew each others names, we knew what jobs we individually were responsible for, we knew the community we were serving and we knew we could work together to get the job done.

      The relationships came from joint training, ICS classes, personal friendships, previous committee and board assignments, participation in exercises, LEPC meetings, interagency meetings, stints as elected officials and local workshops. The relationships were as varied as the players, but they certainly eliminated those early awkward moments and allowed the team to get to work. Of course some new players became part of the operation, but now we have those relationships developed during the incident for next time.

      The Health Department is relatively small and their new building with a future EOC is under construction. The Health Department readily admits that even though they have taken the ICS classes, this was a role they were not comfortable with. So Park City offered up their EOC, staff and equipment and off we went with a Unified Command, that included the Summit County Health Department, Park City, Summit County, Park City School District and the Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau. The incident pretty much blew over within the week, though we still have plenty of H1N1 in Utah and the boys soccer tem was able to go on to the playoffs and eventually win the title.

Keep building those relationships with all the groups and agencies in and around your jurisdiction, they will pay off!

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