What is Emergency Management
Emergency Management is essentially a systematic way to organize emergency responders to work on common objectives that will ultimately resolve an emergency or disaster situation and to get them what they need to accomplish their job. From time to time, we will hear some mistakenly describe it as an entity that takes over the incident scene to resolve it. As a system, arguably this is true; but, the local first responders remain responsible for using the system while they are working. The Emergency Management Division is an entity that will help in coordinating the management of the incident, and our local emergency responders are responsible for executing the work that will resolve the incident. We have incorporated the National Incident Management System (NIMS) as the system to be used in Berrien County.
Many emergencies occur daily or even hourly; such examples are a heart attack, house fire, vehicle crashes, etc. These emergencies are managed by the local, on-duty personnel each day and we are proud of the work they do. The definition of an emergency, in the "emergency management world", is summarized as an event that overwhelms or challenges the ability of those normal on-duty responders to control the impact of that emergency. So in the examples given above, a car crash would likely be resolved effectively by on-duty staff. A 93-car pile up in the winter, involving hazardous materials leaks, would challenge the on-duty responders in that they would likely need to call for additional outside help. That is a simple example of where the Emergency Management Division would likely help them to organize an effective response. The definition of a disaster relates to the results of an incident, related to widespread injuries and/or property damage.
Much of our staff's time is used in writing plans and preparing for emergencies and disasters. After the plans are developed or updated, they need to be communicated to responders in the way of training and exercises. The public should stay informed on actions they can take to prepare themselves through media releases, public information guides, and workshops that are offered. During workshops, training, and exercises, we collect feedback to make sure the written plans will work and try to find ways to make them better. The unfortunate nature of disasters are that events are often uncontrollable and the impacts are complex. The goal for the first responders is to get the situation under control as quickly as possible to lead into an efficient recovery. The Emergency Operations Center, coordinated by the Emergency Management Division, is a place in which the first response agencies will find the support they need to help accomplish this during a disaster or emergency.
The statutory responsibilities for Michigan emergency management are detailed in Michigan Compiled Laws. The law developing the emergency management process, defining the scope of emergencies, promulgating authorities, and defining responsibilities in Michigan is known as the Michigan Emergency Management Act (Public Act 390 of 1976).
To establish a comprehensive, all-hazards approach to emergency management for the whole community of the County of Berrien and to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies, disasters, and threats to our homeland.
The Berrien County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division's approach involves a range of public and private agencies working together as a team to accomplish the Division and Department's missions. There are too many agencies to list individually as part of the team, but some examples include: local police, fire and EMS agencies, Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, National Weather Service, American Red Cross, local and state health departments, educators and amateur radio operators.
Emergency preparedness is the responsibility of every citizen. Therefore, county residents, visitors, and businesses should develop a basic plan to help ensure their safety during these situations.
Please see our Berrien County Emergency Preparedness Guide (PDF).