At 2:56 p.m. on May 20 a tornado touched down just south of State Highway 37 in Newcastle and was tracking toward Moore.
City officials including Mike Magee, Edmond’s emergency management coordinator, were watching the weather and could see that Moore was in the increasingly powerful tornado’s path. When it was going through Newcastle, officials began assembling a task force consisting of a mix of personnel including first responders.
Magee used a discrete phone number to call his counterpart in Moore and asked him if he wanted the task force to deploy; he invited them.
During the drive, off-duty Edmond firefighter Lindy Simpson, husband of Amy Simpson, principal of Moore’s Plaza Towers Elementary, called one of the task force members headed to Moore. Shipman was on a pile of rubble at the severely damaged school and briefed the task force on conditions. Edmond personnel also shared the type of resources they had with the decision-maker, a person with whom they had an existing relationship, Magee said. Due that familiarity, the decision-maker knew what they could do at Plaza Towers, Magee said.
The story, shared Tuesday morning by Magee during a Federal Emergency Management agency incident command system course for executives and senior officials, illustrated the complexities of managing a major disaster.
The one-day FEMA course was taught by Jon Neely, chief training officer for the Edmond Fire Department.
Participants included City Council members, Mayor Charles Lamb, City Manager Larry Stevens and Assistant City Manager of Administration Steve Commons.
Neely, who has worked numerous multi-agency incidents, praised the officials for taking the course, part of their self-education process and part of having a safer community.
“We talk about preparedness later on, and this is one of the steps in preparedness,” Neely said.
According to course literature the incident command system is a standardized on-scene all-hazards concept that allows users to adopt an integrated organizational structure to match the complexities and demands of single or multiple incidents without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries.
Neely said the incident command system helps ensure the safety of responders and others, achieve tactical objectives and efficiently use resources. Neely and the students discussed incident types — structure fires, wildland fires, terrorism — and listed similar incidents the participants encounter daily in their jobs to show fundamental familiarity.
Participants listed other events in which city personnel responded: The May 19 tornado, which strafed parts of Edmond including the Oak Tree area, significant area wildland and structure fires and ice storms.
Using this system, executives and senior officials’ roles and responsibilities include providing policy guidance on priorities and objectives based on situational needs and the emergency plan, and overseeing resource coordination and support to the on-scene command.
Magee said he and Neely were talking about teaching the course before the May 19 tornado, which inspired questions from the community about preparedness, reinforcing the timing as being right.
At one point during the course, participants were given a chance to select an incident scenario and do a tabletop exercise.
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