Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays

First of all, I want to wish everyone a very joyous Christmas. We will be traveling to Illinois to get together with our family. I’m very excited!! Our oldest son recently moved to Illinois from Colorado and this is the first Christmas in a very long time that we will all be together. We can begin some new family traditions that include the whole gang. I hope that you are able to connect with your family and spend some quality time together.

The After Action Report is completed for the flooding this spring and was presented at the Council Meeting this week. We learned many lessons about handling an emergency. The key learning is that we need to make sure that everyone is trained and we need to take time to practice handling a large scale disaster. Command and communication are the key factors to saving lives and property during a disaster. We need to practice establishing command, activating the Emergency Operations Center and filling the roles that perform important duties during a disaster. FEMA provides free training and practice exercises. I will bring proposals back to the Council to implement a much expanded training and practice program for our city. It is important that we are better prepared in the future to face any emergency.

Enjoy the holidays. Be safe when you travel as the weather doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with our travel plans.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good People, Good Work ... Thank You

I hope some of you caught the Channel 27 news feature on Columbus. They were doing a story on communities that are “walking the talk” and taking green initiatives seriously. Columbus was featured for our initiatives with LED street lights, electric vehicles and renewable power purchases by the City. This kind of positive publicity is very good for the community. We are noticed for our good people and our good work.

I’ve been working the After Action Report from the flood this spring, and talking to lots of folks who participated in the flood. What interesting stories they have to tell…things that happen when a small town is faced with adversity. People step forward and help their neighbors. I heard that Columbus Family Restaurant provided meals to the more than 20 residents from the Larson Home who were evacuated. They made special meals, met the nutritional needs of these folks and helped these residents feel at home while they were evacuated to the Motel for more than a week. Thank you. And True Value Hardware lent supplies to clean up crews. Sharrow Drugs made sure that the medication needs were met, and Walgreens and the Columbus Community Hospital donated many medical supplies. Equipment came from Midstate to get through flooded areas. There are many, many more. Almost every business in Columbus came forward to help. Columbus is a place where people want to help each other when we were in need without expectations of being paid back. With just the wish that we can help make someone else’s life better. I would like to thank all of you. You make Columbus a wonderful place to live.

Many of you will be getting together with friends and family this week to celebrate Thanksgiving. As you follow the time honored tradition of beginning your holiday shopping, remember to stop by local businesses who were there to help us when we needed them. These businesses are owned by your friends and neighbors, and they provide the character that makes Columbus such a wonderful place to live. They were there when we needed their support, let’s help them have a good holiday season in these tough economic times.

Enjoy your turkey, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and be safe.

Nancy Osterhaus – Mayor
920 623.4925

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Flood After Action Report

We continue to meet to gather information that will make Columbus better prepared for another emergency. Our goal is to have a completed After Action Report on the June flood by early December. We learned a lot about our capacity to handle disasters, and what can be improved to keep citizens and property safer in the future.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Flood Question - Authority of the Mayor in a Disaster

I received a several questions that folks have about the flood. I will start to address them here. Give me a call, or let me know if you have any questions that aren't answered.

Several inquiries referred to the mayor's authority and role in a disaster.

First, the City of Columbus Emergency Operation organization chart indicates that all Emergency Operations Center personnel report to the Mayor. The Mayor is responsible for the safety of the citizens of the city in which they serve.

In addition FEMA's Incident Command System defines authority of the chief elected official (Mayor) and responsibilities as:

“In most jurisdictions, the responsibility for the protection of the citizens rests with the chief elected official. Elected officials have the authority to make decisions, commit resources, obligate funds and command the resources necessary to protect the population, stop the spread of damage and protect the environment….. Delegation of authority is issued by the chief elected official, chief executive officer, or agency administrator in writing or verbally. It does NOT relieve the granting authority of the ultimate responsibility for the incident.” ICS200

FEMA makes it very clear that the Chief Elected Official has a very key role in a disaster, and for folks who watched the Mayor of New Orleans call for National Guard troops and evacuate his city as Hurricane Gustov approached, you can appreciate that elected officials take this very seriously. I too took my responsibilities for the safety of the citizens of Columbus very seriously during the floods in June 2008.

Nancy Osterhaus - Mayor

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fire / EMS - What are those firefighters asking for?

The EMS contract with Heartline Medix runs out next June 30th, and we have been looking at options when that contract ends. Columbus could put out a bid and hire an independent contractor to provide ambulance service. We could ask a neighboring municipality to provide EMS services, we could provide ambulance service ourselves. The firefighters are asking the Council to give them the opportunity to explore the option of providing ambulance service through their department.

Years ago we used to have fire / EMS services. Many of our neighboring communities have the combined service, some of them much smaller than Columbus.

The fire fighters are asking the Council to give them help to put together a proposal that would combine these services. They want to use an expert who is experienced in current rules and operations. They need some consulting money to create the cost benefit analysis to keep them in the game for EMS services.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Will the Emergency Operations Center evaluate their perfomance during the flood?

Yes. The Emergency Operations Center has a process that includes a post incident review. The flood of 2008 was the LARGEST emergency that has ever occurred in Columbus. Over 30 agencies were involved in providing services to our community. The post incident review will begin once the work of the EOC is completed, and will cover many topics. It will provide information on what went well, where changes need to be made, where things can be improved, and perhaps equipment and personnel that should be in place to protect us in the future.

The EOC is made up of almost every department in the city... Dan Jansen - Public Works, Dennis Weiner - Police, Mark Kenevan and Linda Damm - Fire, Anne Donahue - City Administration, Peggy - Library & Public Information Officer, Patti - Heartline Medix, John - Water & Light and myself. In addition to the Columbus EOC, we will be seeking and giving feedback to Columbia County, Dodge County and perhaps Beaver Dam. We worked closely with all of these agencies during the flood, and they will have valuable information for us.

If you have any specific questions that you would like addressed in the report, please send them to me or to any of the EOC members by the end of July.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How big are the storm sewers in the city? Why didn't they keep the streets from flooding?

I asked our Public Works Director, Dan Jensen what size storm can our storm sewers handle, and he told me that the construction standard is to size for a 10 year flood. Sizing for a 100 year flood would require at least 10 times larger stormwater pipes, and this is cost prohibitive. Remember that the recent flooding was 3 feet over the 100 year flood stage, and 2 feet over the previous record for Columbus. This was an extraordinary event.

You can take some precautions to help prevent or reduce flooding in your home.
  • Make sure that you have a check valve in your basement to allow water to exit the drain but not come back in.
  • All sump pumps must be set up so that water goes into the storm water system or onto your yard. Sump pumps that are attached to the sanitary sewer are illegal and overtax the sanitary sewer system during heavy rains resulting in sewage back up.
  • Landscape your yard to move water away from your basement to reduce the amount of seepage that you get.