By Rosemary Horvath
Clare County government employees will go through mock disaster exercises in December, which will likely cause closing the County Building either half day or all day.
This training drill is part of a comprehensive security plan county commissioners approved in October.
Jerry Becker, emergency management director, said Dec. 6 and Dec. 20, both Fridays, have been set aside as training days for employees to act out what to do in an emergency such as bomb threat, weather disaster, or any necessary evaluation.
“If the courthouse is activated for an emergency this plan covers all of it,” said Becker.
The plan affects more than employees. “This is a public building so employees will know what to do to protect themselves and the public. The public will be inside the building too,” he added.
The plan does not deal with limited access to the building. Deciding to shut off one or more building entrances as a measure of security during normal business hours is a subject commissioners will discuss for the future.
Becker, in conjunction with Undersheriff Dwayne Miedzianowski and courts staffs, developed procedures from suggestions initiated first in 2000 and revised in 2010.
The plan also serves as written agreement for the county and St. Athanasius Catholic Church. County employees will evacuate to the parish meeting space and dining hall for shelter, which has been a verbal understanding for years.
Emergency management will alert the government offices through an existing public announcement system, a phone network digital alert tone, or as a secondary plan, door-to-door contact.
Another project Becker has nearly resolved involves switching locations for electronic equipment used by numerous agencies like county transit, Farwell Community Schools, sheriff’s department, fire dispatch and emergency management.
Becker, Miedzianowski and County Commissioner Dale Majewski, also Lincoln Township fire chief, are working on a cash-free, long-term lease to have antennas mounted on a tower owned by TransCanada Corporation in the Lake George area where the company has a pipeline.
“We are in an engineering stage to confirm the site will work for all of our public safety agencies,” Becker explained. “That is the first thing.”
He said he has a preliminary lease agreement and, if the engineering study comes out favorably, all interested parties will meet to approve a lease.
“We don’t want to go into a worse radio situation than we have now.”
The county’s South Tower has been in the same location since 1992. Monthly lease payment has been $3600.
That location and where the North Tower was located were both in unsecured locations. The North Tower was moved last year to a county-owned secured site in Harrison.
The county has a third tower.
At the last county commission meeting, Majewski said narrow band changes have impacted communications in the center section of the county.
Current lease for the South Tower ends in May 2014. The county is responsible for maintenance on the tower even though it is privately owned.
The potential site is 41 feet taller than the current 180 foot tower.
Becker said the county has three antennas: UHF for law enforcement, VHF for fire dispatch and another for amateur radio operators who are part of emergency management and homeland security program.
Amateur radio operations, formerly referred to as ham radio operators, play a vital role in his department, he said. The group of volunteers has repeaters at all three of the county’s tower sites, for uninterrupted communication.
Becker’s office has They are an integral part of our emergency management system. They have a desk in my office and a mobile command station in the mobile office.”