LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Crisis preparation is a must in Kent County

Could it happen here? Are we prepared? Those are among the questions many Kent County residents asked themselves this past weekend as they watched the events that took place in various parts of the country, just one week after the 15th anniversary of the worst attack on America on September 11, 2001. An apparent terror attack in Minnesota, a pipe bomb in New Jersey and pressure cooker bombs in New York City all captured our attention and caused us to wonder once again whether it could happen here, and are we prepared.

In a somewhat less dramatic fashion, similar questions also arise at this time every year as we follow the various Caribbean and Atlantic storms developing and moving up our coast as tropical storms and hurricanes — “Will it hit Kent County?” and “Are we prepared?”

Public safety is the first responsibility of government at all levels. Each level of government has its own responsibilities and its own public safety priorities. That includes Kent County government.

John Sigler

John Sigler

Unfortunately, Kent County is not immune from the possibility of a terror attack or major aviation accident, and those of us who have lived here for any length of time know that we are extremely vulnerable to the fury Mother Nature can unleash upon us in the form of wind, water, snow and ice – that’s the bad news. The good news is that Kent County’s Department of Public Safety is prepared and is capable of executing its public safety responsibilities professionally and effectively.

The Kent County Department of Public Safety consists of three elements or divisions that work with and support other federal, state and municipal public safety organizations in times of crisis, the most visible and familiar of which is the Emergency Medical Services Division, our Paramedic Service. We see them all of the time, and most of us know of at least one person whose life has been saved by these well-trained professional first responders.

The other two divisions that we don’t see, and which are of equal or greater importance in times of personal and community crisis, are Kent County’s Emergency Communications Division and the Emergency Management Division. Although we do not see the good men and women of the Emergency Communications Division, we do talk to them – this is “Kent Center,” sometimes better known as “9-1-1.” These well-trained professionals handle and coordinate the communications required for police, fire and ambulance response.

Lesser known, but arguably the most important division is one very few of us even know exists, the Emergency Management Division. This division plans and trains for “the unthinkable” and “the worst imaginable” in the hope that their plans and preparations are never needed. They also serve as the “hub” or central command center in the event that the “unthinkable” or “worst imaginable” actually does happen here in Kent County.

All three divisions are good — even very good. But they could always be better. The so-called “war room” that will serve as the “central command module” in a time of great crisis was designed and constructed before that fateful day when America’s concept of “public safety” was forever changed. While Kent County has done its very best to ensure that this facility is capable of handling the crises of the future, bringing this command center up to par with the needs of the future will be one of the primary challenges Kent County will face in the near future.

As Kent County’s population increases and calls for services increase accordingly, the county’s “9-1-1” capabilities will have to expand and upgrade, as well. Likewise, Kent County’s most visible emergency service, our paramedic service, must remain a top priority for everyone. Our seniors, our children and all Kent Countians rely upon this service for life-saving and life-sustaining professional first-response assistance in times of both personal and community crisis.

The first priority of government at all levels is public safety. Here in Kent County, that means the very best in terms of Emergency Management, Emergency Communications and Emergency Medical Services.

For the sake of our families and our communities, these county-level public safety emergency services must be our first priority, and they must become and remain the first priority for all of Kent County government. But the ultimate challenge will be addressing and meeting these priorities within the confines of a fiscally responsible budget.

So, the answer is, “Yes, it could happen here.” We must be prepared.

John Sigler

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Sigler is a retired Dover City Police captain and a candidate for the 5th District Kent County Levy Court seat.

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