COUNCIL BLUFFS — Flooding is different from a wildfire, of course, but members of the Colorado Incident Management Team have transferred their knowledge of a multiple-day crisis to local leaders.
The team returned to the Rockies this weekend after two weeks assisting Council Bluffs and Pottawattamie County emergency management operations.
Bill Wallis, incident team commander, said his seven-member team has unique experience. While most fire and police departments are experienced at handling four-hour incidents, he said, his team is used to coordinating multiple-day events.
"We make people look at the big picture," Wallis said.
That picture includes planning and resources.
Mike Rubenstein, planning section chief for the team, said Council Bluffs had done a lot of great work before the team arrived. He said his job was to broaden the locals' views and take the next step to "where things go from here."
"There will always be chaos that occurs (during an emergency)," Rubenstein said. "The better the plans, the less reaction time you will need to get everything back on track."
Pottawattamie County Emergency Management Director Jeff Theulen said the Colorado team was available to help through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual aid agreement among all 50 states and U.S. territories to share resources during times of disaster.
"Our job is to come and support the local community, not to take over for anybody," Wallis said. "Our job is to make the locals look good."
Wallis said the complexity of a flooding event differs greatly from a wildfire, but the principles of managing the situation are the same.
He noted that with the flooding, a lot of different people area involved, from the Iowa National Guard to public works employees.
"It takes some time to speak a common language," Wallis said.
Theulen said the team has contributed to "growing the knowledge base" in the city and the county, and he will push for establishment of a similar team in Iowa after the flooding ends.
"We need a good, solid, robust response team," he said. "Region 7, which includes Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, has more presidential disaster declarations than any other (Federal Emergency Management Agency) region."