Allamakee County authorities participate in emergency preparedness meeting hosted by Winneshiek County

by Lissa Blake


Practice makes perfect.

That’s the mantra that helps emergency response organizations prepare themselves for the unexpected.

Earlier this month, Allamakee County Emergency Coordinator Chris Dahlstrom and members of the Allamakee County Healthcare Coalition attended a mass prophylaxis preparedness and planning training seminar in Decorah.

Bruce Goetsch, Winneshiek County Emergency Management, recently scheduled the training through the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center arm of Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.

The two-day training was attended by emergency personnel from Allamakee, Fayette, Franklin and Winneshiek counties. Participants ranged from public health and law enforcement to hospital and veterinary staff.

The course addressed local public health and medical preparedness with other community partners in preparation for the coordination of plans to provide for the possibility of mass inoculation/medicine distribution.



Goetsch said partnering with other agencies to prepare for an emergency is key to success during a crisis. “In 2008, we hosted a two-day full-scale exercise and a week later we were dealing with a flood,” said Goetsch.

Goetsch explained each agency attending the training looked at its own plans and was able to review existing protocols. “Winneshiek County happens to be a point of distribution (POD) county in the immediate area. We looked at how that would be set up, if we should need something like that, and the information pipeline that gets passed along to the state, feds or Centers for Disease Control,” said Goetsch.

In addition, course material was applicable to pandemic influenza, bio-terrorism and other public health emergencies. Goetsch said in addition to mass inoculation, the group talked about Ebola preparedness. “With the Ebola scare, people are more afraid. What they don’t realize is we lose over 10,000 people a year to influenza. The probability of dying from or even contracting the flu is way higher than Ebola,” he said.



Goetsch explained about one-third of his budget is pre-mitigation. Winneshiek County spends about $10,000 annually for Northeast Iowa Response Group hazardous materials training and spent $13,000 for river gauges prior to the flood of 2008.

“We’re also in the final stages of three-year planning mitigation for counties and cities as a result of flood damages from 2008,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is get Iowa prepared for whatever comes down the pike… the more realistic we can make it, the better.”



Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Chris Dahlstrom said he appreciates being able to partner with Winneshiek County and felt the exercise was very good training. “It is very essential to see different aspects and jobs participate. It is especially important for Emergency Management to know how a mass vaccination clinic can be set up, so we can anticipate needs in the Emergency Operation Center (EOC),” said Dahlstrom.

Julie Shockey, Luther College coordinator of campus news, added, “Bringing national emergency preparedness training opportunities to the local level is vital to our community's planning efforts. Not only was the training session informative and the hands-on experience valuable, meeting colleagues from around northeast Iowa was essential. We were able to share personal experiences with emergency management that will prove to be valuable if faced with a similar situation. We are so fortunate to have these kinds of opportunities available in our area."