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Blunt Establishes New Emergency Management Standards

November 15, 2005
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The state is adopting a new emergency training program to better prepare for natural disasters and terrorist threats.

Gov. Blunt signed an executive order Monday establishing the National Incident Management System. NIMS will act as the state's new standard for emergency preparedness.

"This is a national communications system that ensures that across the board everyone is talking the same language and working on the same directive," said Jessica Robinson, spokeswoman for the governor's office.

President Bush directed the Department of Homeland Security to implement the program to coordinate efforts between federal and state agencies.

The director of Missouri's Department of Public Safety said he thinks NIMS will help the state prepare for its Katrina equivalant; a catastrophic earthquake along the New Madrid Fault line.

"Something along that line would at least equate the devastation we've seen down South," said Mark James.

All executive departments in the state must immediately incorporate NIMS into their emergency preparedness plans. NIMS requires every state agency to use the same terminology and the same organization system.

"This requires standardization, so the law enforcement guys can talk to with the fire responder guys, who can talk to emergency managers and so forth, and we all have a common language, a common terminology and so forth," James said.

Prior to the development of NIMS each agency had its own language and structure.

"We operate one way when we are in a disaster mode and we operate another way, more relaxed, when you are not in disaster mode," said Susie Stonner, State Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman. "And what the [NIMS] is saying is we're going to act the same way for both disasters and for regular non-disater work so that we don't forget how we're supposed to respond and slip back."

The executive order also requires certain state agency employees meet NIMS training requirements defined by the U.S Department of Homeland Security before Oct. 1, 2006. Everyone from county commissioners, to mayors, to police officers must take the state training. The training includes online courses and seminars. Stonner said the training will make people more aware of their responsibilities during a disaster.

"This will make us more efficient because we're going to be constantly practicing so that when get into real disaster situation we will be able to just react insantaneously," said Stonner.