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Two local leaders recognized by the state

PRINCETON – Two local emergency preparedness leaders have received state recognition for their roles in the Bureau Putnam County Emergency Preparedness Community Partners (BPEPCP) coalition.

BPEPCP co-chairs Deb Wood and Lisa Clinton were honored at the Integrated Public Health and Medical Preparedness Summit for coordinating the year’s most creative emergency preparedness exercise in the state.

The mock disaster drill took place in May 2012 and involved numerous countywide resources, agencies and emergency responders. Two simulated flooding disaster evacuations took place at the same time on opposite sides of the county – one at Walnut Manor and the other in the village of DePue. The drill tested the abilities of Bureau and Putnam counties’ resources as a plan to deal with two disasters at the same time was developed and acted out.

“They were impressed we were able to accomplish both the mock evacuation of a nursing home and the evacuation with DePue and include a simulated water born illness situation,” Clinton said.

At the summit, a state official mentioned how the formation of Bureau and Putnam counties’ coalition was a model program for others. The coalition is a unique formation that even counties with greater populations and resources have not yet accomplished. Wood and Clinton feel a sense of pride for all the achievements BPEPCP has met just within its three years of being together.

“By winning this award, it shows that we were doing the right thing in preparing,” Clinton said.

Before the formation of the coalition, Clinton and Wood said it was recognized that the county, being rural and spread out, had to find some way to combine resources and contacts to provide a more efficient response team when disasters struck. They said it only made sense to combine as many agencies possible when putting together big production drills to make them each worthwhile.

“We have to have those relationships built before the big ones hit,” Clinton said. “The relationships you’ve built ahead of time will prosper and are priceless.”

Wood admits five years ago, before the coalition, the county was not on the level of cooperation as it is now.

“I just tend to be amazed every time we get together and do something ... with every exposure we grow,” she said. “It’s truly an ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch my back.’ We are partners.”

The coalition is made up of emergency management, nursing homes, home care, mental health, churches, fire, EMS, police, search and rescue, schools and more.

“Each time a new person comes to the table, they bring something new to the group and it’s just neat to see,” Clinton said.

The coalition tries to host one big mock disaster production a year.

“We try to alternate our locations every year so that we do get to work with different fire departments, villages and EMS providers,” Clinton said. “We’re hoping to spread the knowledge a little bit further each time.”

Wood said after a completed drill, each agency is able to learn a little more about one another and their capabilities.

“I know I’ve gained new respect for the partners when I see them functioning in their mode,” she said.

Besides co-chairing the BPEPCP, Wood is the EMS coordinator at Perry Memorial Hospital where she has been for 13 years; Clinton has worked for St. Margaret’s Hospital for 26 years and currently holds the position of occupational health and safety director.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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