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Groups gather in effort to make state safer

September 13, 2018

Improved communication among state and local officials will lead to better responses to emergencies such as natural disasters.

That’s according to emergency management officials, police, firefighters and military personnel gathered Wednesday at Fort Wayne’s Air National Guard base.

They were there for Operation Force Multiplier, an effort run by the Indiana National Guard and the state Department of Homeland Security. The initiative aims “to highlight their collaborative efforts to keep Hoosiers safe and respond to emergencies,” according to a news release announcing it.

Guard and Homeland Security officials began holding meetings Sept. 5 with county and city leaders in Terre Haute. The Fort Wayne visit was the fourth of 10 planned meetings.

“This statewide tour will increase knowledge and strengthen bonds with our first responders so that when local incident commanders face overwhelming situations they know how and when the Indiana National Guard will respond,” Col. Jeff Hackett, the Guard’s director of operations, plans and training, said in a statement. “We want to showcase the strong relationship between IDHS and the National Guard, which benefits all of Indiana.”

For more than two hours officials discussed emergency responses in general and outlined procedures for how to contact military and state agencies that can offer supplies and workers to help in those situations.

Those who attended said communication can be difficult in emergency situations that involve multiple agencies with many different points of contact.

Allen County Homeland Security Director Bernie Beier said communication is key in situations where time is limited. He said his office in the past had to contact officials in Indianapolis who would then relay requests for help to local Guard officials.

Now he and administrators such as Chuck Goad, the local base’s commander of security forces, coordinate efforts.

“Most of us already have relationships,” Goad said.

Lt. Col. Shawn Eaken, a former Fort Wayne police officer, is the director of military support for the Indiana National Guard. He said the meetings provide opportunities for emergency responders to meet each other and discuss procedures for securing or deploying assistance.

“It’s (about) building relationships so when the emergency comes, we’re prepared,” Eaken said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday in Gary. 

mleblanc@jg.net

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