Archive for Thursday, September 15, 2005

Four-county response team awaits call

September 15, 2005

A disaster response team that includes public employees from Leavenworth County likely will be dispatched to a hurricane-ravaged area in Mississippi.

Chuck Magaha, Leavenworth County emergency preparedness director, said the "Unified Response and Recovery Team" has not been officially deployed but has been told to be ready to leave for the Gulf Coast with as little lead time as 24 hours.

"It looks like it's going to happen," Magaha said Monday. "I just don't know how soon."

The team, a joint effort of government agencies from Leavenworth, Wyandotte, Johnson and Douglas counties, was put together in the wake of Hurricane Katrina with the help of the Homeland Security section of the Kansas Adjutant General's Office.

Initially, public agencies from the four counties have made commitments for the deployment of more than 140 employees, including firefighters, law enforcement officers, nurses and doctors. The deployment could be expanded to include public works employees, planners, secretaries, clerks or any other job a public employee fills, depending on the need.

Keith Yoder, the Kansas City metro area coordinator for the Homeland Security section of the Kansas Adjutant General's Office, was in Mississippi earlier this week scouting for a base of operations for the team, Magaha said. He did not specifically identify where in Mississippi, but said "That's more than likely the area we'll be deployed to."

One goal of the team is to be self-supporting and self-sufficient so that it doesn't add to problems in the area it will serve.

"We're not going to have to depend on anybody to be able sustain ourselves. We're going to have fuel. We're going to have food. We're going to have a base camp. We're going to have communications," Yoder said last week.

The team's deployment is expected to last a minimum of 90 days, but the plan is to shuttle relief workers to the area for two-week periods at a time to lessen the impact on any single public agency.

Magaha said the team would coordinate its work with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Though the local agencies supplying relief workers and equipment would be responsible for any costs upfront, they ultimately will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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