Park County Works to Revitalize Emergency Preparedness 

Park County Emergency Management Officials Look to Revitalize and Rebuild

Written by on July 25, 2022

As concerns over COVID-19 begin to ease, Park County Emergency Management officials are looking to revitalize community engagement by rebuilding normal continuity with local partners.

Geoff Weimer, the new Park County Public Health Response Coordinator, works closely with Jeff Martin who is the Emergency Manager and Director for the Office of Homeland Security.

Their focus? All-Hazards Preparedness and Response. These two offices have common goals, and this allows for unique forms of collaboration.

Mr. Martin’s position encompasses a broad set of responsibilities, which includes all manner of disaster and emergency readiness. During a disaster, the initial emergency response can involve things like moving people, feeding people, getting water to people, and so on.

“Homeland Security doesn’t really identify all the things we do, it’s more emergency management, and basically what that entails is any man-made or natural disaster,” Martin explains.

In emergency management, partnerships are key. “Our job is to work with our state partners and work with our national partners through the state. As a community, we go through the National Preparedness Goal, which is Prepare, Prevent, Mitigate, Respond and Recover,” Martin says.

The National Preparedness Goal, as defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is to be prepared for all types of disasters and emergencies. Additionally, the National Preparedness Goal includes 32 Core Capabilities. These capabilities address things like operational coordination as well as intelligence and information sharing.

“A secure and resilient nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk,” FEMA writes.

The major flood event this June in Yellowstone and southwest Montana has once again highlighted the importance of emergency response preparedness. “I think we knew there was going to be some thunderstorm activity, but as with any thunderstorm, it hung out in the area a little bit longer – when those floods happened, we instantly went into response mode,” Martin says.

Mr. Weimer describes how the flood event started out as a life and property concern and then quickly became a public health concern because of “potential well water contamination.” As with any natural disaster, interruption of basic services, like the delivery of medications, can have a profound impact.

A concern on everyone’s mind with so many vital services relying on electricity and the internet is an attack on the U.S. power grid. In the event of this kind of emergency, folks could rely on radio broadcasts for potentially lifesaving information. Radio stations have obligations to the FCC to maintain backup generators and additional emergency functionality.

Mr. Weimer’s responsibilities are more directly related to Public Health Preparedness and Response. Health Park County also plays a significant role in community wellness. Wendy Morris currently serves as the Coalition Coordinator.

Weimer notes that his job as Public Health Response Coordinator is funded through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), saying, “I work in a grant-funded position that is ultimately funded by the CDC and I work to build community resilience in a public health sense.”

The Public Health Response Coordinator’s job is “geared toward knowing our community and being prepared to address the needs of everyone in Park County,” Weimer says.

“Most of the residents in Wyoming are resilient,” Martin adds.

One important tool for Park County is the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) forum. LEPC will take place on August 17th, 2022, at Northwest College. The current plan is to start the meeting at 9 a.m. (time to be confirmed) and the room is to be determined.

Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) also play an integral role during emergencies. “Basically, it’s a voluntary organization, and the foundations of it are run through FEMA, but it’s a local organization for us in Park County – so it’s county-wide – it’s members of the community who volunteer their time.”

CERT requires people to receive training at the Park County Emergency Operations Center for a “boot camp on everything natural disaster-related” before being deployed during an emergency. These volunteers respond to a wide range of disasters in the county, which has included emergencies like COVID-19 and the flood event recently. Martin hopes to double the number of people involved in this volunteer program for Park County this year.

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