Summit County is on track to be more prepared for emergency scenarios with the passage of an Emergency Management Plan during Wednesday's Council meeting. The plan will be modeled after the federal framework as opposed to the most recent plan, which was modeled after Salt Lake County's system.
Kevin Callahan, the county's emergency manager, said the new plan follows the National Incident Management System (NIMS) structure and breaks the county into five emergency management zones: (1) Park City Municipal, (2) Snyderville Basin, (3) South Summit, (4) North Summit and (5) the Wildland Fire District.
The plan also evaluates what some likely emergency events are that may occur and what resources the county has to deal with those scenarios. Events include wildfires, flooding, severe weather storms, drought and health epidemics.
"This plan says you deal with an event at the lowest organizational level you can. If you can handle it within the city, you do that," Callahan said, adding that county, state and federal resources can be called upon should the need arise. "The county [can] initiate mutual aid and we're able to access state resources."
During last August's Rockport fire, the state served as the Incident Commander while the county maintained a support role, providing public information services, working with the Red Cross to open shelters, coordinating building inspections and other functions.
Callahan said that, looking back, he would have tried to find an alternate location for the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) during the fire, which is located in Kamas. This plan allows for an alternate EOC as well as additional or mobile centers.
In a flood situation, the plan would declare the Public Health Director as Incident Commander, who would be able to call on additional resources from other agencies, and would also have the Red Cross and county health department involved.
Where the county could run into problems is in the instance of a snow emergency, especially if such a storm lasts for more than 12 hours, Callahan said.
"If we have an 18-hour storm, the Public Works Director has the obligation to keep the roads open," Callahan said. "When [there is] a snow emergency, people need to get their cars off the road. If they are not off the road, they will be towed away."
In such an extended winter storm event, the county would have to find other ways to get the roads plowed, since county drivers cannot drive for more than a 12-hour shift. Getting mutual aid from another agency, contracting with a private company or utilizing other county employees would be options for such a scenario, Callahan said.
"In the unlikely event that [such a storm] happened, the public would still expect us to keep the roads plowed," Callahan said.
The Emergency Management Plan would be updated annually, Callahan said, and a resource inventory will also be added, which will list all of the facilities, equipment, staff and mutual aid agreements the county has at its disposal.
An ongoing public education program will also be part of the plan, and Callahan thinks the county has improvements it could make in its communications efforts during emergencies.
"During the Rockport fire, while we handled the public information function okay, there were some things we should have anticipated. We didn't do a good job in keeping the public informed on the status of their homes," Callahan said. "How do we notify the public in the case of an emergency?"