Friday, September 30, 2011

First Impressions from a New Regional Director

- Lisa Olson-McDonald, West Central Region Director

Lisa Olson-McDonald (far right) joins Governor Scott Walker,
Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar and WEM Administrator Brian Satula
in meeting with Clark County residents affected by a tornado
in late August.
On August 1, I began the next chapter in my career by becoming the West Central Regional Director for Wisconsin Emergency Management.  Having grown up and graduated from college in La Crosse, it has always been my goal to eventually return to the Coulee Region.  I have worked in Madison for more than 13 years of my professional career, so it is nice to finally “come home.” 

As what seems to be typical of emergency management careers, three weeks into the job, a tornado struck Clark County on August 23.  When the scene was secure, I was able to visit residents whose homes were destroyed.  The stories that they told were extraordinary and it is amazing that none of these residents were seriously injured.  Everyone spoke of how members of the community came to help within hours of the tornado.  One of the most remarkable aspects of this job is to witness the generosity of people, both of those who work in the profession and of those who find themselves in the midst of a crisis.

I’m finding out pretty quickly that this is a “jack of all trades” job.  My major task is to help counties prepare for emergencies and to assist them when disaster strikes.  Between disasters, I work with counties to make certain their disaster plans are in place with the State and I help them to work through the process of finding financial help to recoup expenses from emergency responses.  Due to the proximity of the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant in Red Wing, Minnesota, I will work continue to work closely with Pierce County to support them in the unlikely event of a power plant disruption…given that I worked as a radiological emergency planner for four years prior to this regional director position, that part of the job should be familiar!

The West Central region consists of 13 counties:  St. Croix; Dunn; Chippewa; Taylor; Clark; Jackson; Monroe; La Crosse; Trempealeau; Buffalo; Pepin; Pierce and Eau Claire; as well as one tribe, the Ho-Chunk Nation.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet with each of the counties’ emergency management directors, and I know that we have a great team looking out for the residents of West Central Wisconsin.  With the nature of what we do, I will never know from week to week who may need support from a devastating storm or man-caused event, so starting off with such a kind reception from the counties gives me the confidence of knowing that we will always do what it takes to support the people of the region in a time of need.

Being the regional director for a 13-county area is a serious responsibility, but one that will certainly be rewarding.  Emergency management is an exciting field, and I look forward to the surprises and successes that this new position will provide.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September Preparedness Kicks Off with a Ready Road Trip

- Tod Pritchard, Preparedness Coordinator for ReadyWisconsin

Lights…Camera…Take Action!

Call it our “Ready road trip.”  Barneveld, Stevens Point, Green Bay…all in one day…to videotape a very important television public service announcement (or "PSA") airing across the state this September.  The message: get ready for emergencies.

September is Preparedness Month here in Wisconsin and across the nation.  At Wisconsin Emergency Management, our ReadyWisconsin preparedness program wanted to come up with a way to remember the victims of the 9/11 attacks (hard to believe this is the 10th anniversary of that terrible day).  To honor them and the first responders who protect us every day, we thought it would be great to highlight first responders in a 30-second TV commercial urging everyone to prepare for future emergencies and disasters.  We call this campaign: “A Time to Remember.  A Time to Prepare.”

So we started calling law enforcement and fire departments around Wisconsin to see who would help us out.  The response was overwhelming.  Dozens of police officers, sheriffs and firefighters said they would be glad to assist.  We narrowed down the participants  based on their availabilities and the availability of the camera crew that would have to dash across the state to collect the footage.

Brandon Wilhelm, Barneveld Police

I drove with a local video team to Barneveld to meet Officer Brandon Wilhelm.  Beautiful sunshine, great for our video shoot.  We set up the equipment on a bike trail near the Barneveld water tower.  Peaceful and quiet…a perfect spot.  Of course just as Officer Wilhelm arrived a huge tow truck pulled up on a nearby street to load up a disabled car.  BEEP… BEEP…BEEP.  His back-up alarm went off for the next ten minutes!  Brandon was very patient and did a great job after the beeping stopped.  

The video crew lines up a shot
of the Stevens Point Fire team.
Then it was on to Stevens Point where we met up with Interim Fire Chief Tracey Kujawa and members of her fire department.  We met them down by the Wisconsin River.  Again peaceful and perfect.  Then the lawn crew at the nearby park showed up with mowers blazing.  Oh no, not again!  But when the mowers moved on, Kujawa and her team were perfect.  

Firefighter David Siegel
and the Brown County
Hazardous Materials Response Team
Then on to Green Bay where the Brown County Hazardous Materials Response Team met us along the Fox River.  No noise issues here, just some clouds that blocked our sunshine every once in a while.  We found out that David Siegel from the Hazmat Team is a huge Detroit Red Wings fan.  It was 80 degrees and the guy couldn’t get hockey off his mind.  

During a separate road trip we taped Brian Satula, our new Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator here in Madison.  Brian did a great job despite having to run in and out of meetings long enough to shoot his part.  Also stepping in front of the camera was Wisconsin Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs and Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls.  We just made it through Sheriff Nehls's taping session before it started to rain.   

WEM Administrator Brian Satula
The PSA really came together.  I’m very thankful to all the men and women who took part in the making of this message.  I hope these first responders will inspire all of us to take just a few minutes out of our busy lives to think about getting ready for disaster.

Click here to check out the video and meet the participants.

Just follow these three steps can get you and your family ready for an emergency:

Charles Tubbs,
Wisconsin Capitol Police Chief
Keep enough emergency supplies on hand for you and your family – water, non-perishable food, first aid kit, prescriptions, flashlight, and a battery-powered radio. If you own pets, remember to include their food and supplies.

Click here for a complete emergency kit checklist
Discuss and agree on an emergency plan with your family.
Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls
Click here for a Family Emergency Plan 

Knowing the dangers and making good decisions can save your life. Here are just a few examples of where to get great information:

Click here to sign up for ReadyWisconsin on Twitter

Click here to sign up for ReadyWisconsin on Facebook
Click here for more information on emergency radios
ReadyWisconsin's Tod Pritchard
shows off the program's
new emergency supply kits

As part of our campaign we’re giving away free emergency kits. Just play our ReadyWisconsin Trivia Challenge for a chance to win a kit.  Click here to visit the trivia page on the ReadyWisconsin website.
Individuals and families are the most important members of the nation’s emergency management team. Being prepared can save precious time and save lives.

I speak to clubs and organizations all across Wisconsin. I’d be happy to talk to you about emergency planning. Just drop me an email:

Honor the 9/11 victims by making sure you and your family are ready!