City of Cedar Rapids holds simulated disaster response

If a disaster strikes people form an incident command center and support groups to respond to the crisis and keep the city informed.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 10:22 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cedar Rapids first responders and city staff held a large-scale disaster response effort Thursday with a focus on better communication.

Cedar Rapids Assistant Fire Chief Andy Olesen took the lead of the more than 50-person response team that consisted of firefighters, police, and other municipal departments. The teams worked through their policy and procedures in the specific response with a focus on doing a better job communicating.

“We can always do better,” said Olesen.

Atchison Consulting Services (ACS) produced the city’s “After Action Report”. The city invited local media to watch the inner workings of this mock disaster and see how complex it was behind the scenes.

“We’re going to talk about working off a plan, and we’re really making sure that we are managing an incident and communicating what we’re doing with the people that live here,” said Olesen.

The focus was on the process. Think of the room as the brain of the city’s response to a disaster: making sure credit cards have higher limits to buy emergency supplies, first responders can respond through encrypted radio channels, and ambulances are in position.

“What we heard today was people understanding or trying to understand where to get information,” said Cathleen Atchison, owner of ACS. “It’s a great example of realism around what were the options.”

“We’re really trying to use all communications mediums,” said Olesen. “Now, we’re using the website, text messages, Facebook, and push notifications.”

Fire Chief Greg Smith said the training wasn’t new. The city would hold similar disaster response training annually prior to the beginning of the pandemic. He wants to get those training back up and running.