Planning For Any Scenario

"We had this structure built pretty heavily within the first few days," Omaha Fire Battalion Chief Shane Hunter said.

That structure, called Unified Incident Command, works daily to keep the city dry.

Unified Incident Command is a combination of public works, fire and police, parks and the airport authority shares information daily to pin point areas of concern.

Hunter leads the committee which meets twice daily.

"The thing that the flood has given us is time to prepare," he said. "We've tried to cover all the 'what if' scenarios."

The concept comes out of the post 9-11 days.

It is aimed at handling a disaster as it occurs and caring for people afterward.

The tasks needed has forced some groups to wear different hats.

Public Works employees have seen a drastic change of responsibility.

"We're dump trucks and snow plows," Public Works' Marty Grate said. "I mean that's what we do and when the typical emergency comes up like blizzard or a tornado or a wind storm, we just jump in our trucks and we go out and we clean it up. This has been totally different."

Public Works is now responsible for handling the city's barrier against river flooding and the city's pumping capabilities.

"The next thing that could happen that we've been preparing for since June 1st is the unfortunate event of a levee break," Hunter said. "We don't anticipate that but we have to plan for that prudent planning component and if we don't then we're going to miss something."

That's why information and needs discussed among the Unified Command structure is passed along to a war room of volunteer and social groups that provide support in flood fighting measures, such as sandbagging efforts, and help people if disaster hits.

Shavonna Lausterer of the Douglas County Health Department said their main task so far has been getting out flood information that can affect health issues.

The department has conducted a mosquito surveillance treatment plan outlining some potential problems the flooding aftermath could cause.

She said the department also helped identified the population make-up in the city's evacuation area and was involved in sending out bi-lingual fliers concerning evacuation plans.

Lausterer said it is vital that each department understands its role of how it fits into a bigger picture.

"If you know from the outset that this is your area, that this is the potential area that could be flooded, what's in that area, what's those things that you're already pre-planning for it make those time critical things if you already have those in place." she said.

Raeanna Kuzha of the United Way would help provide a life line should a levee fail, helping those displaced by flooding.

"In the time of evacuation, if it would happen, we would manage the evacuee reception center to where we would be at Omaha North High to help process them through, make sure they are taken care of," she said.

"We're as ready as we're going to be," she said. "The unknown is the time frame. If it's two o'clock in the morning or two o'clock in the afternoon if the levee would break or have a problem where there would be evacuees, then we would kick into action."

She said there is a group of volunteers to man North High on stand-by should the need arise.

Hopefully, none of this will ever be used.

But the city is trying to cover all the bases should a disaster strike.

The first area of concern addressed by the Unified Command was securing the South Omaha water treatment plant.

Right now, fighting the heat is a major concern and keeping those safe who are constantly monitoring the city's 13 miles of levees.

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