The Saratoga Sun -

Managing a coordinated plan

Carbon County Emergency Manager pursuing coordination center to aid in future events

 

September 23, 2020



by Joshua Wood

Lenny Layman hasn’t been the Carbon County Emergency Manager for very long, having taken the job in May, but recent events—such as the RR 316 Fire in Hanna—have kept him busy. For Layman, that fire provided a great example of why Carbon County is in need of a coordination center.

It just so happens that the Layman and the Board of Carbon County Commissioners (BOCCC) recently accepted a check for $15,000 from the Sinclair Oil Corporation (Sinclair) to go towards such a facility. The Carbon County Coordination Center, or C4 as Layman calls it, is still in the early stages but Layman has big plans. The first step, however, is to help people understand exactly what C4 will do.

“Most people understand a coordination center as the previous terms of an EOC; emergency operation center. The trend is to get away from calling them EOCs primarily because the word ‘emergency’ is contained within that and a true coordination center can be used in all areas of emergency management,” said Layman. “We can use a coordination center, for example, in mitigation processes and recovery processes and response is typically where the EOC is most familiar. For example, the State of Wyoming no longer has an ‘emergency operation center’, they have a regional coordination center. So, that fits in nicely with that because typically what you do in an EOC is coordinate. So, that speaks more to exactly the functionality behind the facility.”

Since coming into the position of emergency manager, Layman has remained mobile despite having an office at the Carbon County Courthouse in Rawlins. Part of the job, according to him, is to be able to be anywhere in the county and work.

“None of that would change with the inception of a coordination center, only that when there’s a large ongoing response that’s happening that we need to coordinate, I would be working out of that location,” Layman said.

The Carbon County Coordination Center, however, will be more than just a building. While part of the intent is to provide a central location in which to provide support for Incident Command in the event of fires, floods and other emergency events it is also there to provide training for emergency responders.

“Everybody needs to understand the function that it provides up to and including the incident commander of a scene, city and town councils, county commissioners. They need to understand, through proper training, what a coordination center—the product that it can produce—is,” said Layman. “Once we get to that point, I think we’re so much farther ahead of the game in having a very prepared, robust network here in Carbon County.”

Layman also wants people to understand the difference between a coordination center and an incident command post. While an incident command post is often mobile, a coordination center is stationary. Additionally, while the incident command is focused on the emergency that’s directly unfolding the coordination center can look ahead and provide the support that is needed by those on the ground.

“Whoever is running the incident command, the unified command, they need things and the bigger the disaster, the bigger the event, the more things that they need. So, in reality, the way that it should work is they get on the radio or establish a communications line back to the coordination center and say ‘I need this. This is what we need’,” Layman said. “One of the first functions of the coordination center is to provide those resources once the normal lines of mutual aid have been extinguished. For example, if it’s happening in the City of Rawlins, the City of Rawlins would send their local mutual aid resources and, hopefully, be able to overcome that incident and it’s done. If that incident continues to grow where it’s starting to really stress those local resources, we stand up a coordination center and then those resource requests come into the coordination center.”

Those resources will likely come through relationships established by Layman with outside resources and include utilizing Memorandums of Understanding and intergovernmental cooperation. A critical reason to bring in those outside resources, if an event extends into multi-operational periods, is to be able to allow those local resources to rest and then to focus on their local tasks.

Yet another benefit to a coordination center is the use of what Layman calls a consequence management group. In the event of an emergency, this group plays out multiple “what-if” scenarios and plans accordingly. An example provided by Layman is a fire that was being fought in Durango, Colorado.

The consequence management group played out a scenario in which a rain storm, which had been confirmed to be incoming by the National Weather Service, would cause a slide on a ridge that had been damaged by the fire and potentially leading to blocking a critical supply route. The group brought in two dozers ahead of the storm in case the scenario played out. That “what if” came to pass and, according to Layman, the road was cleared in six hours instead of 24 hours later estimated by the incident command.

“That’s another product that a robust coordination center can provide,” said Layman.

Due to the initial donation from Sinclair, Layman can begin working on additional funding for the Carbon County Coordination Center. Part of that includes a matching grant from the State of Wyoming through a supplemental Emergency Manager Performance Grant (EMPGS). That will turn the $15,000 from Sinclair into $30,000.

“I’m going to continue looking at other grant options, continue to talk to other corporations about potential donations, look at budgets and just every absolute revenue (stream). Impact assistance is going to be another one that we look at,” Layman said. “There are two additional projects, I’m being told, that are coming down the pipeline.” 

Along with looking for funding, Layman is also on the lookout for locations and people. As of the most recent BOCCC meeting, there are a few potential locations for the Carbon County Coordination Center. However, Layman has a list of requirements that include connectivity, being out of the floodplain and accessible parking for those staffing the center. As for people, another benefit of the coordination center is the ability to provide “just-in-time” training.

While the average resident cannot walk up to an incident command post and request a shovel and axe to help create a fireline, a resident who has experience in answering phones can provide some aid in a coordination center. The “just-in-time” training would let the person know how to know what questions can be answered during an emergency event such as a fire.

“A good emergency manager knows that their livelihood and their success is built on the relationships that he or she can build, cultivate and then harness in times of disaster,” said Layman. “I love building relationships. I realize that I’m not the expert in hardly anything but I know a whole bunch of people who are experts in their areas and those individuals need to be called upon during times of disasters and incidents.”

 

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