On November 4, two members of the Dunn County Emergency Management team gave a presentation to Community Conversations.  Melissa Gilgenbach is the director of the program and Kristin Bunch is the program assistant.  Emergency Management is a state-wide program.  Dunn County is in the West Central Region along with 12 other counties and one Tribe - the Ho Chunk Nation.  This program is funded by grants from the state.  All of the municipalities, cities, villages, and townships, in the state also have departments that handle emergencies within their borders and these departments coordinate with their county.  Companies and businesses within counties also participate with “off-site plans” for emergencies such a spills of hazardous materials.  In Dunn County there are 23 “off-site plans” for substances of interest.  This includes Phillips Plastics, 3M, and Conagra.

Dunn County has a Hazard Mitigation plan where the potential of disasters is ranked.  This plan is revisited every 5 years.  There also is a new process - IPP - Integrated Preparedness Plan - which is new in Wisconsin.  It is for whole community preparedness and there is freedom within the county to identify what we will and will not do.  It involves the fire departments, police, EMT’s, county departments, and community members.  This plan is reviewed each year.  What direction should we go in as a community?  Where do we need help and what to we need to work on?

The Emergency Management directs “exercises" where scenarios of disasters are created. Then there is an enactment of response by emergency workers, firemen, schools, etc.  This can include the use of large equipment in full-scale exercises.   There also is a Training Portal which is free to participants and trains in areas such as leadership and use of new technologies.  Outreach by our county Emergency Management to the community includes 1) getting out the word on preparedness 2) attending events to bring awareness of the county program 3) displays 4) training sessions in schools.

The Management Team asked the participants in the room to suggest events that could be termed a disaster:

-Severe weather such as a Tornado, Windstorms, Blizzards, Floods and Firestorms

-Chemical spills

-Train derailment

-Violence - active shooter events, domestic terrorism

-Dam failure - there are three major dams in Dunn County 

-Massive power outages as in ice storm electrical system damage

-Internet outages

-Interstate pileups

-Homelessness - need of shelter in disasters

-Air pollution - such as hazardous conditions caused by large forest fires in the summer of 2023

-Extreme temperatures


-Nuclear events - we in Dunn County are within the 50-mile radius of the Minnesota Prairie Island nuclear facility where our food and water could be affected by radioactivity from an accident - testing of surfaces would need to be done until this hazard is resolved.

The staff in our Emergency Management closely follows the weather/ windspeed and is constantly monitored.  NOAA is one helpful source.  If power is out, the staff keeps in touch with the power companies.  Our county staff is in contact with our regional West Central Region Director - who coordinates with the entire state emergency system.

The phone number 211 is used for calls from the public for damage assessment.  (This is not for immediate danger but for those who are in need of assistance related to damage.)  Reports of damage are turned into the state and then there can be an estimation of the extent of damage in Wisconsin that could be used to get help with FEMA funding.

It is best to have community members prepare for disasters - everyone who is able should have items available for disaster in case of a loss of electricity.  There are others, the elderly and the disabled, who are unable to prepare and will need services immediately from emergency services.  It is suggested that we have 3 days of supplies for everyone in our household.  That would include water on hand for drinking and washing, a flashlight with extra batteries, food and a plan for meal preparations, a radio run by batteries, and cash available in at home.  It is also helpful to have activities to do if there is no electricity - books, games, and cards.  Activities are a good distraction during stressful times.

When there is an emergency, many items are needed by everyone at the same time.  3 days of supply allows stores to restock supplies.  With supplies, there will be time to wait out the emergency until power comes back on or roads are cleared of debris.  Encourage your family and friends to also be prepared for emergencies.

You should plan if there are individuals in your home with special needs so that needs can be met in a disaster.  You should evaluate if you have any vulnerabilities in your home such as a risk in floods due to closeness to a flood plain.  You should be able to communicate with friends and family to let them know where you are or where you would plan to be in an emergency.  Carry the phone numbers and addresses of your contacts.  Keep your insurance information available in case of emergencies.  Know who coordinates emergency work in your municipality.  Know the meaning of sirens.  If you are in a car, have items if you are stranded.  On trips, keep an eye on the weather ahead and on road construction (511.)

If a large area is affected by an disaster, other counties can send resources to those counties in need.  The Red Cross and Team Rubicon help in large disasters.  Listen to advice from officials - evacuate if needed, shelter in place if needed.

You are in a community.  Unfortunately, with the danger of guns and political divides, neighbors often do not interact.  But it is helpful to know who your neighbors are and if they can provide help in disaster - whether the help is medical or is assistance in repairing damage to property.  In an emergency, most people will help each other and community comes together.  In a disaster remember to be KIND to one another and be helpful.  Volunteer your services.  Our Dunn County community is unique.  Community members often help each other.  They, as a local community, solve problems caused by events so no emergency responders are called.

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WisCommunity Staff
News Section
Author Credit

Summary of meeting by Lorene Vedder.

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